In a diverse signing community, it is not unusual to encounter a wide variety of expression in the types of signs used by different people. Perceptions of signing proficiency often vary within the community, however. Conventional wisdom intimates that those who learned at an early age at home or in school know true standard American Sign Language, while those who learned ASL later in life or use contact or coded signs are considered to be less skillful. Joseph Christopher Hill’s new study Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community explores the linguistic and social factors that govern such stereotypical perceptions of social groups about signing differences.
Hill’s analysis focuses on affective, cognitive, and behavioral types of evaluative responses toward particular language varieties, such as ASL, contact signing, and Signed English. His work takes into account the perceptions of these signing types among the social groups of the American Deaf community that vary based on generation, age of acquisition, and race. He also gauges the effects of social information on these perceptions and the evaluations and descriptions of signing that results from their different concepts of a signing standard. Language Attitudes concludes that standard ASL’s value will continue to rise and the Deaf/Hearing cultural dichotomy will remain relevant without the occurrence of a dramatic cultural shift.