Sign Languages: Structures and Contexts, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Sign Languages

Structures and Contexts, 1st Edition

By Joseph C. Hill, Diane C. Lillo-Martin, Sandra K. Wood


216 pages | 77 B/W Illus.

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Sign Languages: Structures and Contexts provides a succinct summary of major findings in the linguistic study of natural sign languages. Focusing on American Sign Language (ASL), this book:

  • offers a comprehensive introduction to the basic grammatical components of phonology, morphology, and syntax with examples and illustrations;
  • demonstrates how sign languages are acquired by Deaf children with varying degrees of input during early development, including no input where children create a language of their own;
  • discusses the contexts of sign languages, including how different varieties are formed and used, attitudes towards sign languages, and how language planning affects language use;
  • is accompanied by e-resources, which host links to video clips.

Offering an engaging and accessible introduction to sign languages, this book is essential reading for students studying this topic for the first time with little or no background in linguistics.


"By uniting the linguistic, psycholinguistic, and sociolinguistic sides of language study, the authors succeed in offering an impressively comprehensive - yet concise - overview of the study of sign languages, and American Sign Language in particular. Lucidly written, full of illustrative examples, and complemented by well-selected discussion questions, the text is a perfect read for everyone interested in the basics of sign language linguistics."

Roland Pfau, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Phonology

Chapter 3: Morphology

Chapter 4: Syntax

Chapter 5: Children with input from birth

Chapter 6: Contexts of later language development

Chapter 7: Homesign systems

Chapter 8: Variation

Chapter 9: Language Attitudes

Chapter 10: Language Policy and Planning

Chapter 11: Conclusion


About the Authors

Joseph C. Hill is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreting Education at the National Technical Institutes for the Deaf in Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.

Diane C. Lillo-Martin is Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut and a Senior Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories, USA.

Sandra K. Wood is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and ASL Program Coordinator at the University of Southern Maine, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Guides to Linguistics

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General