Date of Award

Winter 12-16-2019

Document Type


First Advisor

Eugene R. Mirus

Second Advisor

Niesha Washington-Shepard

Third Advisor

Carolyn McCaskill


The relationship between kinesics, a sub-field of linguistics which focuses on the intersection of expressive language and nonverbal communication, and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics has been studied extensively; however, the existence of kinesics in Black ASL has not been studied. This study found that kinesics does in fact occur in Black ASL. In addition, this paper points out that although Black ASL has been compared with traditional or white ASL, Black ASL has yet to be extensively compared with AAVE. Data came from raw video footage collected during the Black ASL project and is available for public consumption through Gallaudet University’s Video Catalogs. The participants from the Black ASL Project consisted of two sets of signers, one included signers over 55 years of age who attended six segregated southern Deaf schools, and the other included signers under 35 years of age who attended integrated schools. The videos were analyzed using EUDICO (European Distributed Corpora Project) Linguistic Annotator software (ELAN). The data analysis was checked with informants from the Black Deaf Community for cultural accuracy. Analysis revealed four kinesic trends—incorporation of rhythm, shoulder movement, downward head tilt, and opened mouth—as well as other isolated instances of kinesic movement. Although more research is needed in regard to kinesic elements in Black ASL, enough evidence exists to say that the field of kinesics relates to the study of Black ASL.



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