Deaf where is thy sting? An exploration into the perceptions of deaf-related terms and phrases of three Communities of Practice (Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing)
mesheuropmc: otorhinolaryngologic diseases
The question, ‘Deaf where is thy sting?’ occurs in Lodge’s (2008:62) novel Deaf Sentence and provides us with a striking example of how the word deaf can be used readily in everyday literal and non-literal language. This MA thesis seeks to ascertain different Communities of Practice’s (henceforth CofPs) perceptions of the non-literal use of the word deaf and associated terms and phrases such as to turn a deaf ear, it fell on deaf ears, are you deaf? deaf and dumb, stone deaf, deaf as a post, deaf-mute, hard of hearing and hearing impaired. The CofPs investigated are the Hearing, Hard of Hearing and the Deaf communities. The project combines concepts and ideas drawn from corpus linguistics, sociolinguistics and sign linguistics. It also draws on concepts which transcend different linguistic approaches: those of semantic prosody, lexical priming, collocation and framing. As Lakoff (2004:4) states, ‘framing is about [using] language that fits your worldview. [Hence] it is not just language. The ideas are primary – and language carries those ideas, [and] evokes those ideas’. Implicit within this statement is the idea that membership of a given CofP is likely to shape our understanding of certain words, terms and phrases. \ud This research assesses the neutral, negative and positive prosodies of the above-mentioned terms from the representatives of the three CofPs. Questions addressed include:\ud • Are such language terms problematic for them all and, if so, why? \ud • Are they (ever) used or interpreted consciously they are used by the media and /or in literature texts? If so, why? If not, why not?\ud The main findings from this research project are that the terms deaf and dumb and deaf-mute tend to be perceived as descriptive labels for deafness. It is revealed that these terms are not used much nowadays because they can be somewhat derogatory in terms of their association between deafness and being dumb or mute. The term Hard of Hearing is a preferred term over the term Hearing impaired - a categorisation which is deemed derogatory by the Deaf CofP. The phrases to turn a deaf ear and it fell on deaf ears are perceived to convey a negative semantic prosody and representatives of the three CofPs separately recommended an alternate way of phrasing the concept of ignoring someone or something.
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