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Sociolinguistics: Black American Sign Language

  • By: Ceil Lucas, Carolyn McCaskill, Robert Bayley & Joseph Hill
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

The variety of American Sign Language (ASL) known as Black ASL developed in the segregated Deaf schools of the American South during the century preceding the civil rights era of the 1960s. This dialect, which many Black signers use, is characterized by distinct linguistic features in phonology, lexicon, syntax, and discourse and contains evidence of contact with African American English. Like all dialects, it is intimately bound up with the culture of the people who use it. Here, based on work reported in Carolyn McCaskill, Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, and Joseph Hill from 2011, we describe the Black ASL features that have been examined to date. Since the first large-scale empirical study of Black ASL has only recently been published, a rich array of other ...

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