The issue of 'impairment':An analysis of diverging discourses used to represent d/Deaf people in the United States of America

Nickels, Lindsay (2020) The issue of 'impairment':An analysis of diverging discourses used to represent d/Deaf people in the United States of America. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The aim of this thesis is to study the discourse that surrounds two common reference terms, ‘d/Deaf’ and ‘hearing-impaired’, for the North American d/Deaf community and determine how this group is being represented through that discourse. The field of Deaf Studies has long discussed the two opposing viewpoints on d/Deaf people: the humanistic/cultural view and the medical/pathological view (Lane, 1995; 1999; Lane, Hoffmeister, & Bahan, 1996), each of which provide an understanding of a d/Deaf person’s status and social positioning as either a member of a cultural and linguistic minority or of a disabled population. While this provides us insight into the sociological understandings of d/Deaf people, which have been highly contested on both sides, there has been little to no focus on the linguistic realization of these opposing viewpoints. In this thesis, I investigate contemporary American discourse between the years 1990—2015, including a range of genres, within which the reference terms ‘d/Deaf’ and ‘hearing-impaired’ are found. In total, I explored the discourse from over 3000 texts, consisting of media, legal, educational, and other genres. The results of my study demonstrate the ways in which the ideologies behind each of the perspectives manifest in discourse, providing evidence to support the view that a choice in reference term (‘d/Deaf’ vs. ‘hearing-impaired’) primes a particular discourse that serves the agenda of the ideology within which it is grounded. Overall, this thesis applies the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to the context of Deaf studies, exemplifying the ways in which certain discourses perpetuate the unequal power dynamics that exist between d/Deaf and hearing individuals. Through a combination of corpus analyses, including concordances and collocations, and text analyses following the tradition of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) (Halliday, 1985; 1994a; Halliday & Mattheissen, 2014), including transitivity (Halliday, 1994a; Thompson, 2004, ), social actor representation (van Leeuwen, 1996) and Appraisal (Martin, 2000; Martin & White, 2005), this study explains the intricacies of how the social representation of d/Deaf people is linked with those reference terms and the discourse that surrounds them. It reveals that ‘hearing-impaired’ carries with it the connotation of pathology and is as such a representation of someone who is defective, incapable, and weak, while ‘d/Deaf’ has the ability to represent a person as able, competent, and proud. These findings call into question our use of identifying terms and what kind of implications our selections can have on the perception of that individual and the social group of which they are a member.

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20 Aug 2020 17:55
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18 Sep 2023 02:21