Carin Roos PhD
Stockholm Institute of Education

Åsa Wengelin PhD
Lund University

Paper presented at The 6th International Symposium on Bilingualism,
30.5. – 2.6.2007

Hamburg University, Hamburg


Written language production in text telephone conversations between deaf people

For most deaf Swedish people Swedish Sign Language (SSL) is the first language and written Swedish the second. This is a very particular L2 situation. First, they only have access to their second language in its written form, i.e. learning to write and learning the second language become the same process. Second, until quite recently deaf people needed their second language not only to communicate with hearing people but also to communicate with each other in telephone conversations. For many deaf people the telephone conversations with other deaf people has been the main usage of Swedish.

This particular L2 situation raises several questions. First, how does the on-line communication situation influence the written language production of this group? Second, does this group develop their own linguistic features of Swedish, based on for example sign language usage, when they communicate with each other? Third, do the answers to question one and two transfer to other forms of writing and in that case how?

In this presentation we will focus on the written language production process. Analyses include temporal analyses and analyses of editings. Text telephone conversations between deaf people are compared with monologue writing of deaf people and with L1 monologue writing of hearing people. Two sets of data are used: The first is a set of 15 text telephone conversations and written monologues by the same subjects. The second is a corpus of 36 monologue texts written by nine deaf writers, and 40 texts by 11 hearing L1 writers – all of whom have written on the same given topics.

The results so far indicate the deaf writers are fast and fluent writers, in monologue as well as in dialogue. In monologues the deaf writers make fewer and shorter pauses than the hearing L1 writers. When it comes to editings both groups edit about the same amount of text in the written monologues. However, the editing distance of the deaf group is considerably shorter than that of the hearing monologues. We conclude that the dialogue setting influences the temporal aspects as well as the editing patterns of writing. Some of these aspects also appear to transfer to the monologue situations. The deaf L2 writers appear to be fast linear writers also in monologues, although they edit considerably more in that situation.