Hello. My name is Se'a Prescott and I'm 18 years old, soon
to be 19 in October 2015. I have been learning ASL from the
lessons provided on lifeprint. I have a question though, as
I'm sure you've figured out.
I watched a show recently where the person said how someone
signs can indicate where they're from in the US. More
specifically, this person indicated that the way the girl
was signing showed she was from a rural area. She said, in
reference to the girl signing "Don't know": "Forehead level
citation form indicates someone from a rural area." The
person also explained that, similar to how hearing people
have accents, ASL has dialects. Is this true? If so, how is
it possible to determine, by someone's signing that they are
from a rural environment? Is it even possible to determine
Thank you for your time. I wanted to quickly mention that
the show I was watching was a cop show, so what the woman
said may not be accurate anyways. I look forward to hearing
from you :)
~ Se'a Prescott=
It is certainly true that ASL has dialects and that a person's sign
choices often reflect where that person is from. The "citation
version" (the full, standard version) of the sign "DON'T-KNOW" is
done at the forehead level.
The everyday, casual version of the sign
"DON'T-KNOW" is commonly done at the cheek (or even lower) level.
"DON'T-KNOW" will typically be signed at the forehead level in the
1. A beginning level signer who is learning ASL as a second
2. An ASL teacher who is demonstrating the sign
"DON'T-KNOW" in a very clear and precise manner.
3. A Deaf person who has limited
interaction with skilled ASL signers and learned to sign from a
hearing person who learned to sign from a book (or from an ASL
teacher who demonstrated the sign
"DON'T-KNOW" in a very clear and precise manner).
The statement on the cop show that "forehead-level citation form
indicates someone from a rural area" is likely referring to the
concept that "rural areas" generally do not have large
concentrations of Deaf people. Rural areas tend to only have
"isolated" Deaf people. Such individuals would not regularly be
exposed to fast, native-level signing. Rather most of the rural Deaf
person's friends would likely be "Hearing" people for whom the rural
Deaf person would need to sign very clearly and precisely in order
to be understood.
- Dr. Bill
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