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Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway (Oberlin College)
Abstract ID: 406
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
General Session Papers
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This paper explores how pictorial modes of representing Nepali Sign Language (NSL) are employed in sign language dictionaries, primers, and other teaching materials distributed throughout Nepal. I show that while these images serve as public resources through which students access the cannon of lexical items understood to constitute standard Nepali Sign Language, they are also a tool through which students are encouraged to create boundaries and linkages between a range linguistic practices, different forms of two-dimensional representation of such practices, and social types. In particular, I will argue that illustrations representing a NSL version of the new National Anthem of Nepal highlight how the particular affordances of pictorial representations are drawn on in efforts to re-enregister the personas associated with NSL, in response to shifting grounding of nationalism following the 10 year people’s war through which the Hindu Kingdom was transformed into a secular republic. Attention to such processes help us think about the ways in which sign forms are seen to circulate in various modes (as performances or representations yielding recognizable tokens of linguistic types, allowing signers themselves to be framed as instantiations of social types), hinges not only on processes of enregisterment, but also of de and re-enregisterment, whereby bundles of associations taken to be “perduring” are re-arranged in response to and as a means toward broader social change (Agha 2007).

Agha, Asif (2007). Language and Social Relations. Canbridge: Cabridge University Press.

Keywords: Nepal, sign language, enregisterment