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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Itís Not What You Sign, Itís How You Sign It: Politeness in American Sign Language

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A major barrier to successful cross-cultural communication is to take for granted a stereotype about another personís way of speaking based on one or two dimensions of that groupís language usage. Although ASL signers and English speakers may lean toward certain strategies, the empirical findings presented here challenge a limited view of these two language groups. ASL signers and English speakers, like all language users, employ a rich variety of strategies in interaction at any given moment. In short,

example

deaf/t, be-direct, be-vague, both! hearing/t, be-vague, be-direct, both!

[translation: Deaf people are both direct and indirect, and hearing (non-Deaf) people are both indirect and direct.]

An awareness of this fact is one step away from stereotyping and a step toward understanding ways of speaking that may different from oneís own.
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