Switching between Estonian Sign Language and spoken Estonian in a school environment

Kadri Hein


The study focuses on the variables and functions that affect switching (code-switching and code-blending) between Estonian Sign Language and spoken Estonian among bimodal bilinguals in a school environment. It was found that deaf students at Tallinn Helen’s School predominantly code-blended (simultaneously spoke and signed), whereas their peers from Tartu Hiie School tended to code-switch (stopped speaking and started signing or vice versa). A deaf student’s level of switching was influenced most by the interlocutor’s level of switching, which highlights the importance of input provided by teachers. Although the most often used function of switching was to emphasise a constituent in a clause, the students also switched to express themselves in an original way (humour, language play) and to attract attention, while the teachers sometimes used switching for pedagogical reasons or to side-comment. In cases where it appeared problematic to apply a single function to a switch, a sequential turn-by-turn analysis (Auer 1995) was used.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5128/ERYa10.06


sociolinguistics; unimodal bilingualism; bimodal bilingualism; code-switching; code-blending; Estonian Sign Language

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5128/ERYa10.06


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ISSN 1736-2563 (print)
ISSN 2228-0677 (online)
DOI 10.5128/ERYa.1736-2563