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What's Your Sign for PIZZA?

An Introduction to Variation in American Sign Language

Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, and Clayton Valli

Publication Year: 2003

This introductory text celebrates another dimension of diversity in the United States Deaf community — variation in the way American Sign Language (ASL) is used by Deaf people all across the nation. The different ways people have of saying or signing the same thing defines variation in language. In spoken English, some people say “soda,” others say “pop,” “Coke,” or “soft drink;” in ASL, there are many signs for “birthday,” “Halloween,” “early,” and of course, “pizza.” What’s Your Sign for PIZZA? derives from an extensive seven-year research project in which more than 200 Deaf ASL users representing different ages, genders and ethnic groups from seven different regions were videotaped sharing their signs for everyday vocabulary. This useful text and its accompanying CD begins with an explanation of the basic concepts of language and the structure of sign language, since sign variation abides by the rules governing all human languages. Each part of the text concludes with questions for discussion, and the final section offers three supplemental readings that provide further information on variation in both spoken and signed languages. What’s Your Sign for PIZZA? also briefly sketches the development of ASL, which explains the relationships between language varieties throughout the country.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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pp. 8 -

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pp. ix-

Welcome to What's Your Sign for PIZZA? An Introduction to Variation in American Sign Language. These materials are designed to introduce members of the Deaf community and the general public to sociolinguistic variation in American Sign Language...

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pp. 1-2

In recent years both Deaf and hearing people have become more aware of the diversity of the Deaf community in the United States, which now includes people in virtually all occupations and of many national origins. In this book, designed...

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1. Some Basic Concepts about Language

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pp. 3-11

Before we present differences in the ways that Deaf people in various regions of the United States sign and how the same person may use different forms of a sign on different occasions, we need to describe some of the distinctive...

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2. Signs Have Parts

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pp. 12-16

The symbols that make up languages can be broken down into smaller parts. The signs of sign languages have several parts. ASL signs have five basic parts: handshape, movement, location, palm orientation, and non-manual signals...

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3. Variation: Basic Concepts

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pp. 17-22

Variation refers to alternative ways of signing or saying the same thing. As we mentioned at the beginning of this book, “sofa,” “couch,” and “davenport” are three different ways of referring to the same piece of furniture in spoken...

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4. Phonological Variation

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pp. 23-40

We turn now to examples of variation from the project on which this book and the accompanying CD are based. These examples come from the videotapes we made during a project that began in 1994. We traveled to seven U.S. sites...

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5. Syntactic Variation

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pp. 41-45

In the variation section, we noted that variation can occur not only in the parts of signs but also in the arrangement of word-sized units. When the parts of sentences can vary, then, we are seeing syntactic variation. To analyze this we looked at stories that the participants...

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6. Lexical Variation

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pp. 46-53

As we mentioned earlier, we selected two people from each group and showed them a set of thirty-four pictures and finger-spelled words to see which signs they would produce for the objects and actions shown. We chose the stimuli based on earlier work on variation in ASL and also included some...

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7. Collecting Variable Data

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pp. 54-56

A book about sociolinguistic variation needs to spend some time talking about how to collect data. To study sociolinguistic variation, researchers aim to gather a lot of examples of natural language use and they also want those...

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8. Summary and Conclusions

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pp. 57-58

As you can see, ASL is just like other languages in having patterned variation that we can link to social factors, and some of these have to do specifically with Deaf communities. Even though both spoken and sign languages exhibit variation, the variation that sign languages exhibit is unique in some ways...


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pp. 59-60

Supplementary Readings

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The Importance of Variation Research for Deaf Communities

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pp. 63-82

We examine the importance of variation and other linguistic research for Deaf communities. Sociolinguistic variation in American Sign Language (ASL) was initially addressed by Carl Croneberg in the Dictionary of American Sign Language (DASL), the first dictionary of a sign language based on linguistic...

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Lexical Variation in African American and White Signing

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pp. 83-110

This article, part of a larger study of phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical variation in American Sign Language (ASL), examines lexical differences in the ASL varieties used by African American and white signers. Our goal is to reexamine claims made about the correlation of lexical variation with ethnicity as ...

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Sociolinguistic Variation

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pp. 111-179

Language varies both in space and in time, as well as according to the linguistic environment in which a form is used. For example, the American Sign Language (ASL) sign DEAF 1 has three possible forms. It can be produced with a movement from ear to chin (the citation or dictionary form), with a movement...


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pp. 180-189

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682995
E-ISBN-10: 1563682990
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681448
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681447

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 15 tables, 18 figures
Publication Year: 2003