How We SEE Sign: The Interplay Between Sign Styles and Characteristics of Deaf Identity

Serena Gutridge, Ally Shirman, Jennifer Miyaki, Paige Escobar, Paulina Cuevas

Are the variations in sign language attributed to just a flick of the wrist? This study provides an analysis of the relationship between agents’ identities within the Deaf community and their signing style. In the United States, signers use American Sign Language (ASL) and Signed Exact English (SEE) on a continuum. These variants differ on a number of different levels concerning syntax (sentence structure), lexicon (words), and morphology (word parts with meaning). We investigated the relationship between different sociocultural factors (e.g. age, education, family) and a signer’s use of the linguistic features from these two variants (think: different choices of words or signs!) across various conversation topics related to identity. Our results suggest a correlation between using ASL features and the discussion of more personal topics, particularly those related to identity. On the other hand, SEE features were more prominent when discussing more mundane topics (e.g. errands, opinions on cars).

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