Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Modern Languages


Modern Languages

First Advisor

Allison Burkette

Second Advisor

Felice Coles

Third Advisor

Tamara Warhol

Relational Format



American Sign Language (ASL) is a manual language used by many deaf people in the United States and Canada. For much of its existence, ASL was believed to be a system of rudimentary gestures and signs based on the English language. However, studies that analyzed the linguistic properties of this signed ‘mode’ (Stokoe, 1960) legitimized that it was a language independent of spoken language, with its own system of principles and elements to construct meaningful utterances. Like any language, ASL is influenced by the social demographics of its users. Social demographics such as ethnicity, geographic location, age, gender, and socioeconomic status are elements that cause variation in both spoken and signed languages. ASL is a young language created by a historically marginalized group of individuals as a way to communicate thoughts and ideas in a society designed on the ability to hear. As such, ASL was recognized as an autonomous language and has been the subject of sociolinguistic research since the 1960s. Most sociolinguistic research in ASL consists of large-scale studies has been conducted in the past 15 to 20 years. No research up to date has been conducted within the geographic boundaries of a state. This pilot study examines phonological and lexical variation of ASL in Mississippi through a series of Atlas-style interviews, and identities age and geographic location as the two most significant social influences that cause variation in Mississippi.


Emphasis: Linguistics

Included in

Linguistics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.