Constructing and Navigating Cultural Borderlands Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication

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Individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) occupy complex sociocultural and sociolinguistic territories. They are immersed in spoken language communities but to participate as speakers in conversational interactions, they may rely on atypical communication modes, including systems for generating speech that set them apart as what Mattingly (2006) termed “Other.” This article explores the challenges and tensions implicit in shifting between cultural roles of Natural Speaker and Aided Communicator using the construct of cultural borderlands. Borderlands are first explored in terms of social participation, focusing on questions such as whether aided communication offers a bridge across borderlands or constitutes a marker of cultural difference and on the question of ownership of aided communication. The borderlands of speaker–listener roles that are negotiated within interactions involving aided communication are then considered. Possible implications of how the construct of cultural borderlands supports understanding of interactions involving aided communication are suggested.

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