Sign Language Studies

ISSN 0302-1475


Erin Wilkinson, University of New Mexico
Pilar Piñar, Gallaudet University



The First Wave of Sign Language Research

Selected Memoirs

Against a blue background, white text reads: Sign Language Studies, with the SLS logo beneath.

Guest Editors: 

Penny Boyes Braem

Virginia Volterra

Robbin Battison

Nancy Frishberg

Carol Padden


"A truly stunning collection from the who's who of early sign language research, and a very valuable gift to anyone wanting to learn about the sign language research community." 
— Ceil Lucas, Professor Emerita, Gallaudet University

From the Introduction

"Fifty years after William Stokoe founded Sign Language Studies (SLS) in 1972, we have reason to give thanks for a half-century of research and discovery, and to reflect on its origins. Because much has changed since those early days. And many stories have not yet been told. . . . The resulting collection serves as historical documentation of how a new research field is born. We believe that the personal details and variety of motivations and settings will interest a wide range of readers—not only the veterans of the field who will recognize their pioneering friends, but also younger researchers seeking insights into the roots of sign language linguistics and related fields."

This special issue is included as part of the SLS subscription. 

If you would like to purchase a digital copy ($24/individuals), please click here.

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Aims & Scope
Manuscript Submission Guidelines
Book Review Guidelines
Special Issue Proposals
Purchase Digital Content
The Editors
Customer Service

Aims & Scope

Founded by William C. Stokoe, known by many as the father of the linguistics of American Sign Language, this quarterly journal presents a singular forum for groundbreaking research on the language, culture, history, and literature of signing communities and signed languages. The first journal published in the field, SLS continues to offer fresh content with a uniquely international, multidisciplinary focus.


“Time and again, Sign Language Studies features some of the best articles in the field. The editing is solid, the issues are always pertinent and whether about a sign language of the world, or about the people who use it, the topics are invariably interesting.”

—Carol Padden, Professor, Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego


A common misconception about sign language is that it is universal. Check out our #SLStudies map to see the many different sign languages that are used across the globe! These are the sign languages that have been represented in Sign Language Studies.

New Features in Sign Language Studies

An annual list of completed sign language or sign language-related dissertations and master’s theses.

A section called In Brief, which features short pieces that are 3–4 pages in length, written by undergraduate and graduate students, that are not yet full articles but contain interesting information that should be shared.

History of SLS

William C. Stokoe began publication of Sign Language Studies in 1972. With the encouragement of Thomas Sebeok, Stokoe created this seminal journal as an outgrowth of his pioneering studies of the structure of American Sign Language and the dynamics of Deaf communities. From then until now, SLS has presented a unique forum for revolutionary papers on signed languages and other related disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, semiotics, deaf studies, deaf history, and deaf literature.

Red capital letters, in the upper left corner, Sign Language Studies. A blue abstract shape appears starting on the top left corner and continues through the middle to the bottom, with a white backround on the left side, and red on the right. In a white box on the bottom right, on top of the blue shape, reads Gallaudet University Press.

After a three-year hiatus, Sign Language Studies commenced publication in the fall of 2000. The new editor was David F. Armstrong, an anthropologist and author of Original Signs: Gesture, Sign, and the Sources of Language and coauthor of Gesture and the Nature of Language with Stokoe and Sherman Wilcox. A long-time collaborator with Stokoe, Armstrong became a member of the SLS editorial board in 1986.

David Armstrong stepped down as editor at the end of 2009 and was succeeded by Ceil Lucas, Professor Emerita, Gallaudet University, who is the coauthor and editor of many Gallaudet University Press books, including Linguistics of American Sign Language and What’s Your Sign for PIZZA?, and is the founding editor of the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series. She is also the author of a memoir, How I Got Here.

In 2022, the editorship moved to Erin Wilkinson and Pilar Piñar.

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Table of contents and article abstracts for current and previous issues are available at Project MUSE. All issues are fully searchable.

Search Project MUSE®

Publisher Limited To: Gallaudet University Press

Journal Limited To: Sign Language Studies


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Articles, Book Reviews, and Other Pieces

Sign Language Studies invites submissions of high-quality papers focusing on research relevant to signed languages and signing communities from around the world. Topics of interest include linguistics, corpora development, anthropology, deaf culture, deaf history, and deaf literature. We are also interested in ongoing research reports, shorter pieces that are not full-fledged articles but contain information that should be shared with signing communities, and book and media reviews.

Articles and essays are welcomed from all countries. All submissions must be in English. Authors should submit papers electronically to and


Original scholarly articles and essays relevant to signed languages and signing communities.

Word count limit: 8,000 to 10,000 words, including references

Ongoing Research Reports

Status reports of research being done on signed languages or issues relevant to signing communities.

Word count limit: 3,000 to 6,000 words

In Brief

Pieces that are shorter in length (can be written by undergraduate and graduate students) and are not yet full articles but contain interesting information that should be shared.

Word count limit: 750 to 3,000 words

Book Reviews

Reviews of relevant books.

Word count limit: 600 to 1,000 words


Every fall, SLS publishes a list of doctoral dissertations related to signed language and signing communities that have been successfully defended that year. Please send citations for dissertations you’d like to see included in the list by early August in the following format:

Author. Year of Defense. Title. University. Database where the dissertation can be found or ProQuest order number if available.

Note: Please do not send full text of the dissertation.

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Manuscript Submission Guidelines

A manuscript will be accepted for review on the condition that it has not been published or is not currently being considered for publication elsewhere. Once an article is accepted, the author will be asked to assign copyright to Gallaudet University Press in order to protect the article from copyright infringement. Gallaudet University Press will not refuse any reasonable request by authors for permission to reproduce their contribution to Sign Language Studies.

All articles will undergo peer review, be professionally edited and typeset, and be distributed in print and electronic format.

Length. Manuscripts can be between 8,000–10,000 words including the references. After an article has been accepted, the author will be asked to send the final version as an attachment to an email with the article saved in Word or Rich Text Format.

Format. The title of the article/essay and the author’s name, affiliation, and contact information (including email address) should be on page 1. This is the only page where the author’s name should appear.

Headings. Please do not number your headings (i.e., “3.1. Data Collection”). Also, please do not include cross-referrals to sections in your article's text (i.d., “see section 4.1.2”). If this appears, it will be removed during copy editing. Please do indicate head levels by either formatting them differently (bold, all caps for first-level heads, bold, initial cap/lowercase for second-level heads, bold italics for third-level heads) or by adding bracketed codes:

  • <1> = first-level heads
  • <2> = second-level heads
  • <3> = third-level heads
  • <4> = fourth-level heads.

Tables and Figures. All tables and figures should be mentioned in the text, should include a title or caption, and should be numbered consecutively. Tables should not be embedded in the running text but appended at the end of the article. Figures should not be embedded in the file with the text. They should be submitted as separate files in the format in which they were created. Do not embed the figures in a Word document. All figures should be in reproducible form, with type that is clearly legible at a reduction of 50 percent.

Endnotes and Footnotes. Footnotes should be used sparingly and should be numbered consecutively. Endnotes should also be numbered consecutively and should follow the form detailed in The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), 17th ed. Endnotes should be placed together in a section following the main body of the text.

References. All sources cited in the text should appear in the reference list at the end of the chapter. Text citations should include the author, year of publication, and page number, where applicable: (Wilcox 2000, 120). Books and articles listed in the references should take the following form:

Brueggemann, B. J. 1999. Lend Me Your Ear: Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Winston, E., and C. Monikowski. 2000. Discourse Mapping: Developing Textual Coherence Skills in Interpreters. In Innovative Practices for Teaching Sign Language Interpreters, ed. C. Roy, 15–66. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Stokoe, W. C. 2000. Commentary. Sign Language Studies 1(3): 5–10.

For other types of citations, consult The CMOS, 17th ed.

Permissions. Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to reprint tables, figures, illustrations, and large excerpts. Copies of the permission letters must accompany the manuscript.

Proofs. One set of proofs will be sent to the lead author. Authors are responsible for proofreading and returning the proofs within three days of receipt.

Graphics. Please submit all graphics in a size that is clearly legible when reduced 50 percent. Please note that all graphics must be in grayscale or black and white. Color graphics are not acceptable. Line art should be saved in files separate from the article, preferably in Adobe Illustrator .eps files. Photographs should be scanned as TIFF or PNG files—do not send them as JPEGs.

Please make a separate file for each graphic submitted. Do not embed the graphic in a Word document (this reduces resolution and will affect how well the graphic appears on the printed page). When scanning line art or halftones for submission, please scan to 300 dpi. This is the minimum resolution required for good printing results.

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Book Review Guidelines

Sign Language Studies considers the following genres for book reviews:

• Scholarly monographs and contributed volumes on sign language linguistics and/or sociolinguistics, deaf history, deaf education, deaf studies, deaf literature studies, sociology, anthropology, psychology

• Nonfction—memoirs, biographies, autobiographies

• Fiction and poetry

• Alternative media—videotexts, online multimedia texts



• Double-spaced 12 pt. Times Roman text.

• Length: 800–1,200 words (does not include references).

• Include a one-sentence author biography for the reviewer.

Example: Christina Young is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Virginia.

Bibliographic Citation:

The book review should begin with a bibliographic citation of the book under review following the format below:

Author/Editor’s name(s). (Translator’s name, if required). Book title. Publisher (Page count, price, ISBN, additional format, price, ISBN). URL or DOI if available.

Example: Mary H. Wright. Sounds Like Home: Growing up Black and Deaf in the South. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Gallaudet University Press (282 pages, $32.95, paperback: ISBN 978-1-944838-58-4, ebook: ISBN 978-1-944838-59-1).


Writing a scholarly book review requires careful analysis, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate your thoughts and opinions effectively. Here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Read the book thoroughly: Begin by reading the book from start to finish. Take notes while reading, paying attention to the main arguments, evidence, and the author's writing style. It's essential to have a clear understanding of the book's content. Questions to ask while reading:

• What is the author's main argument that they want to get across?

• What are the smaller arguments the author argues contribute to the main one? Are you persuaded that these more specific reasons support the author's wider thesis? If not, why not? (this is also an excellent time to think about any key terms the author uses or invents to discuss a specific problem or occurrence. How do they improve upon what we already know?)

2. Understand the book's context: Research the author's background, their previous works, and the broader context in which the book was written. Consider the book's genre, its significance within the field, and any relevant historical, cultural, or social aspects that may inform your review.

3. Structure your review: Start by providing a concise summary of the book, highlighting its main themes, arguments, and contributions. Then, organize your review by discussing specific aspects of the book in separate sections, such as the author's methodology, the strength of their arguments, the quality of evidence, the writing style, and the overall impact of the book.

4. Provide evidence and examples: Support your evaluation with specific evidence from the book. Quote relevant passages, cite specific examples, and reference any data or research the author presents. Use these examples to illustrate your points and provide a solid foundation for your analysis.

5. Engage with the text critically: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Consider the author's arguments, the evidence they provide, and their overall effectiveness in conveying their ideas. Identify any gaps or limitations in the book's approach, and analyze how it contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

6. Situate the book within the field: Assess the book's contribution to the broader scholarly conversation. Determine whether the book introduces new insights, challenges existing theories, or offers a fresh perspective on the subject matter. Discuss how the book aligns with or diverges from other works in the field and its potential impact on future research.

7. Develop a clear and coherent argument: Present your analysis in a logical and organized manner. Use clear language and concise sentences to convey your thoughts effectively. Make sure to back up your assertions with evidence and examples from the book.

8. Balance objectivity and subjectivity: While a scholarly book review requires objectivity, it's also acceptable to include your own subjective opinions and reactions. Just make sure to clearly differentiate between the author's work and your personal perspective.

9. Conclude your review: Summarize your main points and provide a final evaluation of the book. Offer a concise recommendation or judgment regarding the book's overall quality, usefulness, and significance.

10. Edit and proofread: Review your work for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ensure your review is clear, coherent, and well-structured. Consider seeking feedback from peers or colleagues to refine your review further.

Remember, a scholarly book review should be thoughtful, well-reasoned, and objective. It should provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the book and its contributions to the field while offering your own critical analysis and evaluation.

Suggested Structure for the Review

1. Introduction

   a. Begin with a brief introduction that includes the book's title, author, publication information, and any relevant background information about the author or the book's context.

   b. Provide a concise overview of the book's main topic or subject matter.

   c. State your overall purpose for writing the review and mention the main points you will address. What is at stake here? Why should scholars be interested in this work? Grab the reader’s attention right away, locating the book in established debates and controversies.

2. Summary of the Book

   a. Provide a summary of the book's main arguments, ideas, and supporting evidence. Include the major themes and key concepts.

   b. Be concise but ensure that you cover the essential aspects of the book. Within the first two paragraphs, it’s important to try to explicitly state the primary argument of the book (e.g., “Smith’s main argument revolves around/centers on/is…”). What is the larger point of this book, and why should readers care?

3. Analysis and Evaluation

   a. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Consider aspects such as the author's argumentation, evidence, methodology, organization, and writing style. Please strive to be fair and considerate while offering critique. However, you can disagree with the book's claims if you believe they are incorrect, exaggerated, misguided, or for any other reason. On the other hand, you can talk about how much you loved the book and explain what specifically fascinated, persuaded, or revolutionized your perspective about the argument or idea.

   b. Assess the book's contribution to the field or discipline. Evaluate whether it adds new insights, challenges existing theories, or provides a unique perspective.

   c. Support your analysis with evidence from the book. Quote relevant passages or provide examples to substantiate your points.

4. Discussion and Interpretation

   a. Engage in a critical discussion of the book's content. Analyze the implications of the author's arguments and ideas.

   b. Consider the book's significance in relation to broader academic debates or the field of study.

   c. Offer your own interpretations and insights, presenting your perspective on the book's strengths, weaknesses, and overall value.

5. Conclusion

   a. Summarize your main points and findings from the analysis and evaluation.

   b. Provide a clear and concise overall assessment of the book.

   c. State your final thoughts and opinions on the book, including any recommendations for further reading or research.

6. References

   a. Include a list of references for any sources cited or referenced in your review. Follow the Chicago Manual of Style’s author-date format.

Potential Book Reviewers

We are always looking for new book reviewers interested in various disciplines. If you wish to become a book reviewer, write to us along with your CV. You can send us a few titles that you would like to review or just your areas of interest. Please contact our editors at

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Special Issue Proposals

Guest Editor Guide

We know that there is a lot to take on when assuming the role of guest editor. We have therefore put together this guide, which leads you through the most important aspects of the role and what you can expect from the process of editing a special issue.

What is a special issue of a journal?

Special issues of a journal are generally centered around a theme. These articles can come from papers/presentations at workshops, symposia, or conferences. The guest editors can also issue a call for papers about a particular topic. Some special issues are festschrifts honoring a certain scholar’s contributions to their field.

In the past, Sign Language Studies has featured special issues on:

  • Linguistic ethnography and sign language studies (guest editors: Annelies Kusters and Lynn Hou; vol. 20, no. 4)
  • Creative sign language in the Southern hemisphere (guest editors: Rachel Sutton-Spence and Michiko Kaneko; vol. 20, no. 3)
  • Rural sign languages (guest editors: Connie De Vos and Victoria Nyst; vol. 18, no. 4)
  • Language planning and sign language rights (guest editor: Joseph J. Murray; vol. 15, no. 4)
  • (This is not an exhaustive list of our special issues—it’s just a sampling.)

What are the responsibilities of guest editors?

As a guest editor, you are assuming the responsibilities of the journal editors. They will be available to give advice but you are responsible for the following:

  • coming to an agreement with the SLS editors on a specific deadline to submit the final version of the papers
  • gathering the initial submissions
  • identifying appropriate peer reviewers and asking if they are available to peer review
  • sending out and tracking the submissions for peer review (you may have to nudge some reviewers to meet your deadlines)
  • deciding whether or not to accept the submissions as is, with revisions, or whether to reject
  • communicating your decisions to the submissions’ authors
  • sending out the contributor contracts to the accepted submission authors
  • gathering all the signed contributor contracts and forwarding them to GU Press along with each author’s snail-mail address (in order to facilitate sending out the comp copies after the issue is printed) and each contact author’s email address
  • submitting a table of contents to GU Press to indicate the articles’ order and to help market your issue
  • writing an introduction to the special issue
  • submitting the final manuscripts with all of their art, tables, appendixes, etc., to GU Press by the established deadline
  • reviewing the typeset proofs (these will also be sent to the article authors)

Before submission

Unless one of SLS’s editors has directly approached you about guest editing an issue, you will need to submit a proposal. The proposal should include:

  • the potential papers and authors with a brief description of each paper (these papers don’t need to be already written, though they might be in progress)
  • the timeframe in which the special issue could be produced (include time for paper writing, peer reviewing, and submission of final copy to the journal) if the proposal is accepted
  • short biographies of all authors and guest editors
  • any special timing, associated events, funding support, partnerships, or other links or relationships that could influence the issue
  • any other information that you feel is relevant

A special issue normally contains around five full-length articles, in addition to an editorial written by the guest editors (occasionally the SLS editors might want to include their own editors’ note).

Please submit your proposal to

Disclosure and conflicts of interest

Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) their actions.

The special issue may publish submissions from the guest editors but the number should normally not exceed one by each guest editor (except where specifically approved by the SLS editors). The guest editor cannot be involved in decisions about papers that they have written themselves. Peer review of any such submission should be handled independently of the relevant guest editor/coeditor and their research teams.

The peer review process


The guest editor should protect the confidentiality of all material submitted to the journal and all communications with reviewers. The guest editor must not disclose reviewers’ identities.

Selection of papers and the decision process

You are responsible, along with any other guest editor(s), for making sure that the review process is conducted in an appropriate manner and in line with normal review practices for the journal. You may consult with the SLS editors about the procedure to be followed.

You will make the decision on all manuscripts based on peer review and your own expertise (as well as that of any co-guest editors).

Selection of reviewers

As guest editor, you should select reviewers who have expertise in the field. You also must ask for and review all disclosures of potential conflicts of interest made by reviewers in order to determine whether there is any potential for bias.

Publication process

Once all the peer reviews are finished and you are satisfied with the final accepted articles, they should be submitted with all of their art, tables, videos, contact email addresses, and any other supplementary material to She will review the articles to make sure they are complete and then they will be sent out for copy editing.

Once the copy editor has finished, the articles will be returned to their respective authors for their review. Typically, there is a one- to two-week turnaround. Once the authors are finished, the manuscripts are returned to GUP for clean-up. If time is available, the clean version of the articles is re-sent to the authors for a final check before being sent to typesetting.

After the issue is typeset, proofs of each article are sent to their respective authors and a proof of the entire issue is sent to the guest editor(s). At this point in the process, we are checking for typos and any serious factual errors. Changes such as rewriting paragraphs or moving figures and tables around are not acceptable at this stage (anything that affects the pagination is very costly to change and the authors may be charged for these changes).

The article authors have the prime responsibility for proofreading their typeset articles but you may also review them and submit corrections. Once all the proofs have been returned, the GU Press managing editor will combine all of the changes onto a single marked-up proof and will return that to the typesetter. GU Press will then check all subsequent proofs to make sure the changes have been made correctly.

Final “print-ready” files are then sent to the printer, ERIC (Education Resources Information Center at the U.S. Department of Education), and to electronic library platforms such as Project MUSE and JSTOR. Once the issue is printed, hard copies of the issue will be sent to each of the guest editors and article authors.

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SLS (ISSN #0302-1475) is published four times a year: fall, winter, spring, and summer.

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The Editors

Erin Wilkinson and Pilar Piñar

SLS Editorial Board

Robert Adam
University College London

Glenn Anderson
University of Arkansas

Dirksen Bauman
Gallaudet University

Karen Emmorey
San Diego State University

Jordan Fenlon
Independent Researcher

Maribel Gárate
Gallaudet University

Brian Greenwald
Gallaudet University

Joseph Hill
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
at Rochester Institute of Technology

Julie A. Hochgesang
Gallaudet University

Lynn Hou
University of California, Santa Barbara

Tom Humphries
University of California, San Diego

Terry Janzen
University of Manitoba

Arlene B. Kelly
Gallaudet University

Christopher Krentz
University of Virginia

Gaurav Mathur
Gallaudet University

Kazumi Matsuoka
Keio University

Carolyn McCaskill
Gallaudet University

Johanna Mesch
Stockholm University

Rezenet Moges-Riedel
California State University Long Beach

Soya Mori
Institute of Developing Economies

Erin Moriarty
Gallaudet University

Ronice Müller de Quadros
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

Elena Radutzky
Mason Perkins Deafness Fund

Timothy Reagan
University of Maine

Octavian Robinson
Gallaudet University

Kristin Snoddon
Toronto Metropolitan University

Rose Stamp
University of Haifa

Gladys Tang
Chinese University of Hong Kong

John Vickrey Van Cleve
Gallaudet University

Sherman Wilcox
University of New Mexico

Betsy (Elizabeth) Winston
Teaching Interpreting and Mentors Center

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Customer Service

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