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British Sign Language Corpus Project: Documenting and describing variation in BSL Adam Schembri, Jordan Fenlon, Ramas Re PowerPoint Presentation
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British Sign Language Corpus Project: Documenting and describing variation in BSL Adam Schembri, Jordan Fenlon, Ramas Rentelis & Rosemary Stamp. Overview. Background to the BSL Corpus Project Methodology What we are finding so far Handshape variation Vocabulary variation and change

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British Sign Language Corpus Project:Documenting and describing variation in BSLAdam Schembri, Jordan Fenlon, Ramas Rentelis & Rosemary Stamp

overview
Overview
  • Background to the BSL Corpus Project
  • Methodology
  • What we are finding so far
    • Handshape variation
    • Vocabulary variation and change
  • Conclusion
why a corpus project of bsl
Why a corpus project of BSL?
  • Need for more work on BSL vocabulary, grammar, variation and change to increase our understanding of BSL linguistics (more work needed since Sutton-Spence & Woll, 1999)
  • One dictionary organized according to linguistic principles (Brien, 1992), but fewer than 2000 signs
why a corpus project of bsl5
Why a corpus project of BSL?
  • Access to the data for researchers and the Deaf community:
    • Advances in technology make data-sharing possible, using new software such as ELAN
    • To provide evidence and material for sign language teaching and interpreter training
  • Language documentation & language change/endangerment
    • To address concerns in British Deaf community about BSL variation and change: heritage forms of BSL not being passed on to a younger generation?
background aims of the bsl corpus project
Background: Aims of the BSL Corpus Project
  • To create an on-line, open-access collection of BSL digital video data.
  • To research BSL variation, change and vocabulary frequency
  • Project timeline: January 2008-December 2010
linguistic structure
Linguistic structure
  • Grammar / syntax: rules for combining signs into sentences
  • Vocabulary / lexicon: the list of signs
  • Phonology: the structure of signs (i.e., handshape, movement, location, non-manuals)
background specific studies
Background: Specific studies
  • (1) Sociolinguistic variation and change in
    • (a) phonology: signs made with the 1 handshape
    • (b) vocabulary: 101 signs from BSL vocabulary
    • (c) grammar: sentence structure and different groups of verb signs
  • (2) Sign frequency: in a collection of 100,000 signs, what are the most frequent signs? (see work on NZSL, McKee & Kennedy, 2006)
methodology sociolinguistic approach
Methodology: Sociolinguistic approach
  • Film ≥30 Deaf native and near-native signers (BSL exposure by 7 years of age) in 8 regions across the UK:
    • England (London, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle)
    • Wales: Cardiff
    • Scotland: Glasgow
    • Northern Ireland: Belfast
  • Total sample of ≥240 individuals, balanced for age, gender, language background, possibly social class and ethnicity
methodology recruitment data collection
Deaf community fieldworkers (cf. ‘contact people’) recruited 249 Deaf people (minimum of 30 x 8 regions) that match project criteria

Filmed over 2-4 visits

No hearing people present during filming

Pairs of signers from the same region and in the same age group

Lived in the region for 10 years or more

Methodology: Recruitment & data collection
methodology recruitment data collection11
Methodology: Recruitment & data collection
  • Filming session:
    • blue background screen
    • two lights
    • plain colored clothing (back-up T-shirts)
    • chairs without arms
    • 1 high definition video-camera(s) focused on each participant, 1 on the pair
methodology content
Phase 1: 249 signers for 2 hours

2008-2010

Warm up activity: 5 minute personal experience stories

(example 1)

30 minutes free conversation

(example 2)

20 minute interview

(example 3)

10 minute vocabulary task

(example 4)

Phase 2: 100 native signers for 2 hours (2010>?)

More stories

More interviews

Language games, tasks etc

Methodology: Content
current status march 2010
Data collection: 249 participants filmed

Belfast 30

Birmingham 30

Bristol 32

Cardiff 30

Glasgow 30

London 37

Manchester 30

Newcastle 30

Why these locations?

All are large cities, with 5 in England (South-east, South-west, Midlands, North-east and North-west) and 1 each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

All have (or had in the past) a residential Deaf school

Limited time and budget so not able to film Deaf people in more places

Current status: March, 2010
so what are finding out thus far
So what are finding out thus far?
  • (1) Sociolinguistic variation and change in
    • (a) phonology: handshape variation in signs made with the 1 handshape
      • preliminary results from 4 out of 8 cities
    • (b) vocabulary: number signs (i.e., 100 target lexical items)
      • results from all 8 cities for 20 number signs (signs for 1-20) out of 101 signs
bsl 1 handshape variation
BSL 1 handshape variation
  • The 1 handshape can undergo
    • thumb extension
    • pinky extension
    • both thumb and pinky extension
    • full handshape change, for example, with all fingers and thumb extended
why is this important
Why is this important?
  • BSL students often do not develop BSL receptive/comprehensive skills very quickly: why is that?
  • One reason is that signs are not produced in conversation in their citation form (the way the sign is produced in the dictionary)
  • In the rapid signing of conversations between fluent signers, handshapes, locations and movements in signs can change from citation form
bsl 1 handshape variation17
BSL 1 handshape variation
  • Aim to try to understand what variation can happen in one group of signs: signs made with the 1 handshape
  • Examples include signs like THINK, PEOPLE, HEARING, QUICK, THERE, WHAT, BUT, ME, YOU etc
  • So far, we have coded 1200 examples from 120 participants in Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham
  • 64% +citation form, 36% –citation form
bsl 1 handshape variation factors
BSL 1 handshape variation: Factors

Linguistic factors:

  • Sign type
    • pointing signs (e.g., THERE, ME, YOU etc)
    • other signs (e.g., THINK, PEOPLE, HEARING, QUICK, WHAT, BUT)
  • Handshape in the sign before and in the sign after the 1 handshape sign:
    • 1 handshape
    • some other handshape
    • no handshape due to pause in the signing
bsl 1 handshape variation factors20
BSL 1 handshape variation: Factors

Social factors:

  • Gender (male versus female)
  • Age (18-50 years old versus 51-94 years old)
  • Language background (parents Deaf or hearing)
  • Region: Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol & Birmingham
  • BSL teaching experience (20/120 participants)
handshape assimilation
Handshape assimilation
  • ME THINK YOU-ARE-RIGHT
  • ME THINK I-AM-WRONG
  • ME THINK YOU HEARING
  • Our research shows that THINK more likely to have thumb extension in (1), pinky extension in (2) and neither in (3)
bsl 1 handshape study
BSL 1 handshape study
  • Pointing signs show more variation in handshape than non-pointing signs
  • The handshape in the signs before and after the 1 handshape signs influence the handshape variation
  • Women signers slightly prefer citation forms of these signs when compared to men
  • Age, region, language background, teaching experience not significant
bsl sign variation and change
BSL sign variation and change
  • Lexical variation research questions
    • Is there evidence of traditional regional signs disappearing in BSL?
    • Which groups in the Deaf community are using fewer traditional regional signs?
  • Kyle & Allsop (1982) found around 50% in Bristol had difficulty understanding BSL varieties from other parts of the UK
  • Deaf community observations suggest sign variation in BSL appears to be diminishing
  • This change is perhaps the result of the more national and more international Deaf identity in the UK, due to increased mobility, inter-regional and international contact, and external influences, such as sign language interpreting on television and Deaf programmes, such as BBC ‘See Hear’
bsl sign variation number signs
BSL sign variation: Number signs

All participants asked to produce their signs for 1 to 20 in a fixed random order, which are coded for:

  • Each specific sign used
  • Whether each sign is a traditional regional number sign or a non-traditional sign
  • Whether each sign was two-handed or one-handed (6,7,8,9,16,17,18,19 only)
  • Gender (male vs. female)
  • Age (18-35, 36-50, 51-65, 66+)
  • Language background (parents Deaf or hearing)
  • School education: local or non-local school

Results from 4,233 examples (i.e., number signs 1-20 –except 1,2 and 5– from all 249 participants)

bsl number sign variation and change study
BSL Number sign variation and change study
  • Number sign use is changing: younger people are using fewer traditional regional number signs
  • Some Deaf people with hearing parents and those educated in schools outside of the region where they live also use fewer traditional regional number signs
  • Older people, people from Deaf families and men tend to use more two-handed number signs
bsl corpus project acknowledgements
BSL Corpus Project: Acknowledgements
  • Thanks to the following researchers whose work influenced our research design: Trevor Johnston (Australia), Onno Crasborn (The Netherlands), Ceil Lucas (USA), David McKee & Graeme Kennedy (New Zealand)
  • Thanks to the project co-investigators (Kearsy Cormier, Margaret Deuchar, Frances Elton, Donall O’Baoill, Rachel Sutton-Spence, Graham Turner, Bencie Woll) & Deaf Community Advisory Group members (Linda Day, Clark Denmark, Helen Foulkes, Melinda Napier, Tessa Padden, Gary Quinn, Kate Rowley & Lorna Allsop)
  • Thanks to Sally Reynolds, Avril Hepner, Carolyn Nabarro, Dawn Marshall, Evelyn McFarland, Jackie Parker, Jeff Brattan-Wilson, Jenny Wilkins, Mark Nelson, Melinda Napier, Mischa Cooke & Sarah Lawrence
contacts websites
Contacts & websites
  • Adam Schembri a.schembri@ucl.ac.uk
  • Ramas Rentelis r.rentelis@ucl.ac.uk
  • Jordan Fenlon j.fenlon@ucl.ac.uk
  • Rose Stamp r.stamp@ucl.ac.uk
  • DCAL Research Centre, UCL
    • www.dcal.ucl.ac.uk
  • Project website
    • www.bslcorpusproject.org