View Full Version : Sign Language "Accents"
05-31-2000, 08:08 AM
When I hear someone talk, I can sometimes guess where they're from or what ethnicity they are by their accents. Does the same hold true for sign language? If a person had a mask and gloves on, could a hearing impaired individual detect the "signer's" geographical home or ethnicity? I know there are several forms of sign language, but within one specific type, are there detectable differences that could be considered "accents"?
05-31-2000, 09:39 AM
There sure are....e.g. those from NY sign faster. Also, some of the same signs have regional variations in the US. Vocabulary also has some variation. In my area we have a few sign teachers & they all sign their own way, which gets confusing sometimes...fingerspelling is pretty much the same.
05-31-2000, 12:21 PM
That's true, there can be differences in regional signs. It's much harder for someone to tell where someone is from just from signing though. For one thing, most deaf people don't sign to as many different people as hearing people hear from. Plus, you'd have to have someone tell you where they're from, AND recognize a difference in signing to be able to tell when you were talking to someone else from that region. For example, suppose you'd never heard anyone with a NY accent talk before in your life. One day a New Yorker comes up and starts talking to you. You say "what a strange accent", but you wouldn't be able to say "hmm, must be from NY". Get my drift?
I have an uncle who is deaf. My friends think it's cool to watch us sign, and they are fascinated with it. I'm constantly amused by some of the questions they ask me. Not too long ago, one of them asked me if he slurs his speech when he's drunk. He does get sloppy with his signs when he's drunk. I've also seen him sign to himself, the same way hearing people talk to themselves. :)
05-31-2000, 01:43 PM
I went to a mainstreaming school for grade school (where hearing impaired and other kids with various disabilities got their feet wet prior to 'real' mainstreaming), and we all had to learn to sign. I ended up with a lot of strange habits - I still tend to watch people's mouths when they talk (habit I got from one of my friends who lipread...)Leading a lot of people to start talking with their lips closed or otherwise checking their teeth for stray food...
I also talk to myself constantly - I find myself fingerspelling if I'm walking and thinking at the same time. I probably look spastic to people who don't recognise the fingerspelling, and since I am not paying attention to what my hands are saying, I probably look half insane to anyone who CAN tell what I'm saying! (I've caught myself repeating... 'got to store, go to store' as a reminder to myself!) I also end up using it automatically the way people mutter under their breath... ("idiot"!)
I was told that I had a dialect, because the ASL we were taught had a lot of variants for basic nouns (not the dictionary version). Not quite the same as an accent, though. And there's SO much individual expression in ASL that it might be hard to distinguish individual variations from regional ones.
(Oh, and my husband tried using fingerspelling to communicate with me after having his wisdom teeth out - he was exactly as incoherent that way, as he was talking with cotton still in his mouth!)
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