Social meanings of linguistic variation in BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language)

Palfreyman, Nick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9095-4937 (2020) Social meanings of linguistic variation in BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language). Asia-Pacific Language Variation, 6 (1). pp. 89-118. ISSN 2215-1354

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In contrast to sociolinguistic research on spoken languages, little attention has been paid to how signers employ variation as a resource to fashion social meaning. This study focuses on an extremely understudied social practice, that of sign language usage in Indonesia, and asks where one might look to find socially meaningful variables. Using spontaneous data from a corpus of BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language), it blends methodologies from Labovian variationism and analytic practices from the ‘third wave’ with a discursive approach to investigate how four variable linguistic features are used to express social identities. These features occur at different levels of linguistic organisation, from the phonological to the lexical and the morphosyntactic, and point to identities along regional and ethnic lines, as well as hearing status. In applying third wave practices to sign languages, constructed action and mouthings in particular emerge as potent resources for signers to make social meaning.

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