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Sociolinguistics: Dialects, Regionalisms, and Ethnic Varieties

  • By: Rose Stamp & Bencie Woll
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

The goal of sociolinguistics is to find the relationship between language and the contexts of its use. Specifically, sociolinguistics focuses on how language varies and what that variation is associated with. This entry provides an overview of sociolinguistic variation and change in signed languages. The variation displayed in sign languages functions as an index of social variables such as age, region, gender, ethnicity, and social class, similar to spoken languages. There are also social factors that are distinctive to signed language communities, such as school language policies or the language background of the signer’s family.

Given that variation is part of spoken languages, it is unsurprising that variation is also an integral part of signed languages and can be observed both in well-established signed languages, such ...

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