Accents in Sign Language

An accent is a manner of pronunciation of a language. It is a way one pronounces a language. There are two different types of accents: native accent and foreign accent. The native accent is the way one speaks in their native language. With the foreign accent, a speaker uses his/her manner or style of their native language in another language. An accent determines where speakers live or what social groups they belong to. Linguists explain that everyone has an accent. The idea of accentless does not exist. A person's accent is developed as she/he learned the language where she/he is from. An accent can give the impressions about the speaker but it depends on who the listener is and how he/she knows about the impressions of the accent.

Does a signer have an accent in their sign language? Yes, definitely. How they "pronounce" or utter can convey some characteristics of their signing. Some native deaf signers, especially those from native-signing Deaf families, can finely detect whether a signer is a native signer, an interpreter, or a post-lingual learner. Furthermore, some can sharply detect whether a signer is hearing or deaf, even if they are fluent. Hearing signers have a certain accent. It is rare that signing of a fluent hearing signer looks like that of a native Deaf signer. Not only audiologically but also geographically, native signers from different regions may have accents. E.g. native deaf New Yorkers have a distinct style of signing in ASL.

Accents can change over time when language changes. One can also change accent consciously or unconsciously. Some signing Deaf immigrants maintain their accents of their native language in another country. Some other immigrants change their accents over many years. It depends on where they socialize and evolve in a socio-lingual group.

signing styles.

Browse ASL and Deaf culture topics.