Types and trends of name signs in the Swedish Sign Language community

Autor/a: BÖRSTELL, Carl
Año: 2017
Editorial: SKY Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 30 (2017) pp. 7–34
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


This paper investigates the domain of name signs (i.e., signs used as personal names) in the Swedish Sign Language (SSL) community. The data are based on responses from an online questionnaire, in which Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing participants answered questions about the nature of their name signs. The collected questionnaire data comprise 737 name signs, distributed across five main types and 24 subtypes of name signs, following the categorization of previous work on SSL. Signs are grouped according to sociolinguistic variables such as age, gender, and identity (e.g., Deaf or hearing), as well as the relationship between name giver and named (e.g., family or friends). The results show that name signs are assigned at different ages between the groups, such that children of Deaf parents are named earlier than other groups, and that Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are normally named during their school years. It is found that the distribution of name sign types is significantly different between females and males, with females more often having signs denoting physical appearance, whereas males have signs related to personality/behavior. Furthermore, it is shown that the distribution of sign types has changed over time, with appearance signs losing ground to personality/behavior signs – most clearly for Deaf females. Finally, there is a marginally significant difference in the distribution of sign types based on whether or not the name giver was Deaf. The study is the first to investigate name signs and naming customs in the SSL community statistically – synchronically and diachronically – and one of the few to do so for any sign language.