The members of a community have conventionalized linguistic structures to convey both the content of a message and the social status of the interlocutors. Crucial in the codification of interpersonal relations are address terms, which are determined by pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic norms related to the language system, the local communicative event and the broader social context. The study examines the usage of address terms (direct address, reference, introductions) at a bilingual university that uses American Sign Language (ASL) as language of instruction and socialization, and English in teaching/learning materials, email correspondence, written announcements, inter alia. Based on interviews with Deaf undergraduate students and Deaf faculty members, the study investigates the production of address terms in this bilingual academic setting and discusses the factors that shape their usage, including ASL linguistic structure, English address norms, participants’ educational background, age and status, sociocultural characteristics of the Deaf community, and assumptions from society-at-large. The results reveal that Deaf students and faculty have expectations about address practices inside and outside university campus and follow a complex set of norms in ASL and written English. The findings also provide insights into how members of the Deaf community experience linguacultural contact between signed and spoken/written languages.

Publication Date



This is a pre-print; the final, published version can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.01.024

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

American Sign Language and Interpreting Education (NTID)


RIT – Main Campus