Political Correctness Affects British Sign Language

Not only is political correctness rife in the everyday and worklife in the UK (and amongst many other countries in the world) but it appears to have affected Britain’s deaf community. Certain signs used in British Sign Language, are now considered as ‘offensive’ and ‘culturally insensitive’. Examples of the ‘offensive’ include signing a slanted eye when talking about the Chinese and imitating the twirling of a moustache when referring to France.

These changes in British Sign Language were discovered through extensive research done over the past three and a half years through the BSL Corpus Project. The study found that there has been a significant shift in the way signing is conducted by deaf people of different ages. Younger users are less likely to use what are now considered as ‘offensive’ signs. Changes have also been noted due to regional variations and social class. BSL appears to have become more culturally sensitive over the years because of these social factors although political correctness may also be partly to blame.

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