Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

J. Albert Bickford


This thesis describes a three-week sociolinguistic survey of El Salvador's Deaf community that was carried out in June and July 2009. The survey utilized various traditional tools that have been used in previous sign language surveys, as well as some new tools derived from participatory research methodology. Results from the various tools were analyzed to form conclusions about the language community and its goals for language development. El Salvador's Deaf community uses Salvadoran Sign Language (LESSA) most commonly, but various subgroups also use American Sign Language (ASL), and Costa Rican Sign Language (LESCO), as well as switching between language varieties when subgroups interact. The highest priority needs identified among the Deaf community were the development of education, interpretation, and sign language resources.

The thesis also evaluates how effectively the survey applied methods of participatory research, and examines the trustworthiness of the results from this new approach to sign language survey. The group environment provided by participatory methods during the fieldwork stage was crucial to this survey's identity as participatory research. However, the survey could have better included the community both before and after the fieldwork stage. Triangulation through the use of a variety of research tools was very important in strengthening the survey's trustworthiness, as various tools either confirmed data that was previously gathered or provided additional information that might have been otherwise missed. At the same time, trustworthiness could have been even greater had the community participated in the analysis process. A notable exception was a workshop that we conducted at the request of community members, which was also very helpful in providing further information about the sociolinguistic situation in the country generally.