Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, & Clayton Valli,
in collaboration with Mary Rose, Alyssa Wulf, Paul Dudis, Susan
Schatz, & Laura Sanheim, Sociolinguistic
Language. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University
Press, 2001. Pp. xvii, 237, appendices, index. Hb $55.00.
Language is the successful result of applying
sociolinguistic theory and methodology originally developed
for spoken languages to American Sign Language (ASL). The product
of several years of study conducted by a team of researchers,
this book is more than just an exercise; both expected and
unexpected findings are presented, thereby confirming and advancing
the sociolinguistics of signed languages in particular and of
language in general. Lucas and Valli bring to this work extensive
experience with sign language linguistics; they are joined by
Bayley, who is known for his work on Tejano English and Spanish
variation among immigrants of Mexican descent. The statistical
findings provide the necessary bridge between context and
environment, on the one hand, and internal constraints, on the
other, to explain the range of variation represented at
phonological, syntactic, and lexical levels in ASL. Explicitly
building on Weinrich, Labov & Herzog's notion of
ORDERLY HETEROGENEITY (14, 193–94; cf. Weinrich,
Labov & Herzog 1968), the book provides useful examples
and analysis for sign language linguists, and it would do well
as a source for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses
where materials beyond a primer of sociolinguistics are needed.
For those more established in the field, the authors respectfully
(and graciously) challenge several frequently cited findings
concerning variation in ASL, such as Woodward & DeSantis'
(1977) claims about negative incorporation and Liddell &
Johnson's (1989) explanations for phonological variation
in forms of the sign DEAF.
(Received July 18 2002)