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Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language

Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, and Clayton Valli in collaboration with Mary Rose, Alyssa Wulf, Paul Dudis, Susan Schatz, and Laura Sanheim

Publication Year: 2001

The culmination of a seven-year project, this volume provides a complete description of American Sign Language (ASL) variation. For four decades, linguists have studied how people from varying regions and backgrounds have different ways of saying the same thing. For example, in English some people say “test,” while others say “tes’”, dropping the final “t.” Noted scholars Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, and Clayton Valli led a team of exceptional researchers in applying techniques for analyzing spoken language variation to ASL. Their observations at the phonological, lexical, morphological, and syntactic levels demonstrate that ASL variation correlates with many of the same driving social factors of spoken languages, including age, socioeconomic class, gender, ethnic background, region, and sexual orientation. Internal constraints that mandate variant choices for spoken languages have been compared to ASL as well, with intriguing results. Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language stands alone as the new standard for students and scholars committed to this discipline.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

Editorial Advisory Board

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Sociolinguistics emerged prominently in the 1960s, celebrating the heterogeneity of language based not only on linguistic constraints but also on variation occasioned by the race, ethnicity, age, gender, and social status of its speakers. Before that, the task of the linguist was a whole lot ...

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pp. xv-xviii

This book is the seventh volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series. It represents the culmination of a seven-year project on sociolinguistic variation in American Sign Language (ASL) funded by the National Science Foundation (SBR # 9310116 and SBR # 9709522). The ...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-31

The 1960s witnessed the development of two subfields in linguistics, the systematic study of language variation, pioneered by William Labov (1963, 1966), and the scientific study of sign languages, developed initially by William Stokoe (1960). The theoretical framework and rigorous methodology of Labov’s early studies on Martha’s Vineyard and in New ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 32-50

The study of language variation requires that we collect and analyze data from a representative sample of the community whose language we are studying. In this chapter we describe how we accomplished these goals. Specifically, we describe the selection of the communities where the research was carried out, participant selection, the role of community-based contact ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 51-80

In order to understand the nature of sociolinguistic variation in the American Deaf community, we need to understand the sociohistorical context in which it occurs, especially the parts of this context that concern the residential schools for deaf children and the social and political organizations formed by deaf people. Researching the historical language ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 81-111

This chapter presents the quantitative analyses of the first of three target phonological variables: signs produced with a 1 handshape. We explain how the data were coded and present the results of the quantitative analyses of linguistic and social factors. Overall, the analyses presented here and in the following chapter show that phonological variation in ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 112-141

In this chapter we turn our attention to variation in the location of signs and examine two additional variables: the sign deaf and a class of signs represented by the verb know. ...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 142-157

In chapters 4 and 5 we looked at the patterns of variation exhibited by three phonological variables: 1 handshape signs, deaf, and the location of signs represented by know. We saw that all three can be considered classic sociolinguistic variables, in that the variation that they exhibit correlates with both linguistic and social factors. That all three variables ...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 158-175

We now turn our attention to one kind of syntactic variation, variable subject pronoun presence, or null subject variation, in plain verbs. ASL verbs are usually considered to fall into three main categories: plain verbs, pointing or indicating verbs, and spatial-locative (or classifier) predicates. In the latter two categories, characteristics of the verb forms ...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 176-191

As we explained in chapter 2, the last part of each data collection session consisted in showing the participants a set of 34 stimuli—mostly pictures but fingerspelling in some cases—to elicit their responses. The selection of the 34 stimuli was motivated by earlier work on lexical variation in ASL, work that we described in chapter 1. We were interested in reexamining ...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 192-194

We now return to the two basic research questions that structured the original proposal written to the National Science Foundation in 1993, questions that guided the progress of the project and that open this volume: (1) Can the internal constraints on variation such as those defined and described in spoken languages be identified and described for variation ...

Appendix A

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p. 195-195

Appendix B

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pp. 196-206


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pp. 207-226


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pp. 227-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781563681776
E-ISBN-10: 1563681773
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681134
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681137

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 42 tables, 14 figures
Publication Year: 2001