The linguistic repertoire of deaf cuers: an ethnographic query on practice

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Mirus, Gene R., 1969-

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Taking an anthropological perspective, this dissertation focuses on a small segment of the American deaf community that uses Cued Speech by examining the nature of the cuers' linguistic repertoire. Multimodality is at issue for this dissertation. It can affect the ways of speaking or more appropriately, ways of communicating (specifically, signing or cueing). Speech and Cued Speech rely on different modalities by using different sets of articulators. Hearing adults do not learn Cued Speech the same way deaf children do. English-speaking, hearing adult learners can base their articulation of Cued Speech on existing knowledge of their spoken language. However, because deaf children do not have natural access to spoken language phonology aurally, they tend to learn Cued Speech communicatively through day-to-day interactions with family members and deaf cueing peers. I am interested in examining the construct of cuers' linguistic repertoire. Which parts of their linguistic repertoire model after signed languages? Which parts of their linguistic repertoire model after spoken languages? Cuers' phonological, syntactal and lexical repertoire largely depends on several factors including social class, geography, and the repertoire of hearing cuers whom they interacted with on a daily basis. For most deaf cuers, hearing cuers including parents, transliterators and educators serve as a model for the English language. Hearing cuers play a role as unwitting gatekeepers for the maintenance of 'proper' cueing among deaf users. For this dissertation, I seek to study the effects of modality on how cuers manage their linguistic repertoire. The statement of the problem is this: Cued Speech is visual and made with the hands like ASL but is ultimately a code for the English language. The research questions to be examined in this dissertation include how cuers adapt an invented system for their purposes, what adjustments they make to Cued Speech, how Cued Speech interacts with gesture, and what language play in Cued Speech looks like.