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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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What's Your Sign for Pizza? An Introduction to Variation in American Sign Language

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Chart 4. Social Influences on the Location of Signs such as know

Social influence

Finding

Age Signers over 55 are more likely to use the citation form; and younger signers are more likely to use the noncitation form.
Gender Males use more noncitation forms than females.
Region Signers in California, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Kansas are more likely to use noncitation forms than signers in Washington or Virginia.
Language background Children of Deaf parents are less likely to use noncitation forms than children of hearing parents.

Ethnicity and social class

Middle- and working-class Caucasian signers are more likely to use noncitation forms than African American signers. Working-class, African American signers are the least likely to use noncitation forms.

SIGNS WITH A 1 HANDSHAPE

The videotapes show many examples of signs with a 1 handshape. Very often a sign that has a 1 handshape in a sign language dictionary is produced with an L handshape, a 5 handshape, or some other handshape. For example, in the phrase pro.1 prefer (“I prefer”), the sign prefer has an Open 8 handshape, and it is not uncommon for the pro.1 sign also to have this handshape. When someone signs pro.1 know (“I know”), the handshape of the pro.1 often changes to look like the Bent B of know.

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Clip 7. The CD shows four examples of 1 handshape signs: (1) The young man signs pro.1 (“I”) don't-know why, and the handshape of the pro.1 resembles that of don't-know; (2) the man on the right of the sofa signs pro.1 (“I”) can't remember with a standard handshape pro.1; (3) the man on the right signs pro.1 open-mouth, shake-head, with the standard handshape for pro.1; and (4) the man on the far right signs pro.1 (“I”) look-at, with a pro.1 handshape very much like the handshape for look-at.

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We looked at more than five thousand examples of signs with 1 handshapes. The three most common variants account for approximately 95 percent of the examples: the citation 1 handshape (index finger extended, all other fingers and thumb closed); the L handshape (thumb and index extended, all other fingers closed); and the 5 handshape (all fingers open). These are illustrated in Figure 13.


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