This article, part of a larger project that studied sociolinguistic variation in American Sign Language, examines that variation in a class of American Sign Language signs exemplified by the verb know, which vary in their location. Usually these signs are produced at the forehead, but frequently they are produced at a lower level. Analysis of approximately twenty-nine hundred tokens of signs of this class from more than two hundred signers in seven U.S. sites shows that the lowering of signs such as know is constrained by both linguistic and social factors that parallel variation in spoken languages. Results from signers of three different age groups also provide evidence of change in progress. Despite similarities to variation in spoken languages, results for several social factors are best explained by reference to Deaf history and to the structure of the Deaf community.


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pp. 407-440
Launched on MUSE
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