Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on by Nora Ellen Groce

By Nora Ellen Groce

From the 17th century to the early years of the 20th, the inhabitants of Martha's winery manifested an exceptionally excessive cost of profound hereditary deafness. In stark distinction to the adventure of such a lot deaf humans in our personal society, the Vineyarders who have been born deaf have been so completely built-in into the everyday life of the neighborhood that they weren't seen--and didn't see themselves--as handicapped or as a gaggle aside. Deaf humans have been incorporated in all features of existence, akin to city politics, jobs, church affairs, and social lifestyles. How was once this attainable?

On the winery, listening to and deaf islanders alike grew up conversing signal language. This targeted sociolinguistic model intended that the standard boundaries to conversation among the listening to and the deaf, which so isolate many deaf buyers, didn't exist.

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Additional info for Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard

Example text

Downing, whose activities for the government included running a series of spy networks, was reputed to have employed a number of deaf people, who reported directly to him. From a passage in Samuel Pepys's diary, it' is clear that Downing knew a sign language. 8 During a party in London on November 9, 1666, Pepys and others anxiously awaited news of the fire that was beginning to rage in various parts of the city. Downing was also at the party w~en a messenger arrived: "There comes in that dumb boy ...

According to Yankee kinship rules, marriages between haF siblings or between uncle and niece or aunt and nephew were considered incestuous and were all but unknown. First cousins were known as "own cousins," and although they were considered closely related, there were no sanctions against marriages between them; it was fairly common. Second and third cousins and those still more distantly related commonly married. Because marriage between cousins was pennitted, and because there was very little new blood to choose from on a relatively isolated island, Table 2.

In the nineteenth century it was said that more Island men had been to China than to Boston, only eighty miles away. Until the Civil War, town records continued to record some money matters in pounds, shillings, and pence, and the British system was also used in much local correspondence. The Island continued to be isolated well into the twentieth century. Today many Islanders venture to the mainland only rarely. Even the regional dialect is markedly different from that on the surrounding mainland; Islanders distinctly pronounce the final and the preconsonantal Irl, although the adjacent areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island are Ir/-less, and they retain the New England short 101, long gone on most of the nearby mainland (Labov 1972).

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