Do sign languages have "accents" like verbal languages? If so, what would be some examples of those?

  • Do you mean accents as a foreign sounding speech by someone who speaks a non-native language? Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:06
  • @lemontree - That, or regional variances, such as Ned Stark saying "joostice" instead of "justice". Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:33
  • i.e. by analogy is there a "Southern" (or whatever) accent in American Sign Language? Interesting question! I think there must be, but don't know.
    – mobileink
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 21:13
  • 1
    @mobileink - To be more clear, can a London signer, just by following another signer, conclude something like, "this guy is from Sussex", or "this lady is German", just like a London speaker could do just by hearing a person from those places? Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 19:13
  • apparently, yes. Google "asl accents".
    – mobileink
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


If we define 'accent' to mean a distinctive manner of expressing language characteristic of a particular group(s) then I would say that the answer to your question is yes. All that would be required for such a notion to be possible is a group of people stressing certain modes of their language in certain idiosyncratic ways.

This much has been shown to actually exist within sign language communities. Linguists researching the Philadelphia area have observed that a single meaning is represented by different mannerisms in Philadelphia compared to the rest of the United States. It is believed that the cause of this deviance is due to many deaf students in Philadelphia attending 'mainstream' schools, where the deaf students were less likely to be in the company of other deaf students.

This raises an interesting, overarching observation that most differences between accents in sign language communities occur between those who are deaf and those who are not. It has been suggested that deaf sign language users can determine whether another sign language user is deaf or not.

It will be interesting to see more research come out on this point.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.