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Sign Language: Name Signs

  • By: Rachel Locker McKee
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

The term “name sign” refers to the category of signs that denote personal nominal reference within a signed language. In the context of signing communities, Deaf individuals typically refer to others by a personal sign that may, or may not, incorporate elements of their legal name. Kathryn Meadow drew attention to sociolinguistic aspects of name signs in American Sign Language (ASL) in the 1970s, and since then, name sign systems of Deaf communities have been described in most regions of the world. The phenomenon of name signs sits at the intersection of language and social practices, revealing processes of lexical formation that are visually motivated and the product of contact among signed, spoken, and written language forms. Customs for giving name signs reflect the ...

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