« Towards a social linguistics - Peter Austin | Blog home | Justice for the Stolen Generation »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

Excellent news! The Economic and Social Science Research Council of the UK has just awarded a £1 million grant to Adam Schembri for what sounds like important work,  The British Sign Language (BSL) Corpus Project: Sociolinguistic variation, language change, language contact and lexical frequency in BSL (2007-2010), which builds on the work he and Trevor Johnston and Louise de Beuzeville and others have been doing on the sign language of the deaf community of Australia, Auslan (e.g. the Auslan corpus project and Adam and Trevor's recent book. Adam got his PhD in 2002 from the University of Sydney, for a thesis Issues in the analysis of polycomponential verbs in Australian Sign Language (Auslan)).

Adam's the Principal Investigator - based at University College, London, and other investigators include Bencie Woll, Kearsy Cormier, Frances Elton, Rachel Sutton-Spence (University of Bristol), Graham Turner (Heriot Watt University), Margaret Deuchar (University of Wales Bangor) and Donall O'Baoill (Queens University Belfast). Here's the project summary.

The aim of this project is to create an innovative corpus (i.e., a computerised collection of language recordings) of British Sign Language (the language of the British deaf community, commonly known as 'BSL'), and to conduct corpus-based investigations of aspects of the vocabulary, grammar and sociolinguistics of BSL. Data will be collected from at least 240 native and near-native deaf signers of BSL from 8 sites across the United Kingdom. The corpus will be as representative of the language community as possible, including a balance of men and women, deaf adults with deaf parents and those with hearing parents, signers who are young and old, and individuals from working and middle class backgrounds and different ethnic groups.

The first major aim of this project is to create a centralised source of data for ongoing research efforts that aim to understand BSL and sign languages of deaf communities in general. Advances in technology have made it possible for the first time to collect video recordings of sign language data that can be stored digitally, given linguistic annotations and accessed on-line. In the past, the use of analogue video material and the lack of standardised transcription methods did not allow for efficient access to source material when analysing sign language data. Much of the existing BSL data is also archived away in different institutions, is not always adequately covered by participant consent and is not easily accessible. The data collection and annotation for this project will provide the first national web-based and publicly accessible BSL corpus that will become essential for sign language research and teaching in the years to come.

The second major aim of the project is to use the data collected to investigate variation and change in the phonology, vocabulary and grammar of BSL and relate it to social factors, such as a signer's regional background, age or social class. Sign languages like BSL exist in unique sociolinguistic situations. Only 5-10% of the British deaf community acquire BSL as their first language from signing parents, with the majority of signers learning BSL from deaf peers in schools for deaf children or from friends in early adulthood. As a result of this unusual pattern of language transmission, together with other factors such as the lack of a widely-used writing system or standard variety of BSL used in education and extensive contact with the spoken language of the surrounding community, sign language use in the British deaf community exhibits a great deal of variation. Since the 1980s, the increasing use of BSL on television and in a wider variety of social situations means that the vocabulary (and perhaps the grammar) is undergoing rapid change.

A third aim is to use a subset of 100,000 signs as part of an investigation into the frequency of lexical items in the language (i.e., to find out which signs are the most common in conversation). The greater understanding of lexical frequency as well as variation and change in BSL which will result from this project will lead directly to improved sign language teaching resources that will more accurately describe how the language is used by a range of subgroups within the British deaf community. This will in turn bring about improvements to the training of BSL tutors, sign language interpreters and educators of deaf children. Furthermore, comparative work on another sign language, Australian Sign Language, will be incorporated into the project so that the relationship between these two historically related languages will be better understood. The project also makes further work comparing BSL with American Sign Language and other unrelated sign languages possible, and will lead to an improved understanding of sign languages in general.


Thanks for the lovely write-up Jane - we're very excited about this new project.

"Only 5-10% of the British deaf community acquire BSL as their first language from signing parents, with the majority of signers learning BSL from deaf peers in schools for deaf children or from friends in early adulthood."

This is an interesting statistic - and one worth researching. An investigation of why people choose to join the Deaf community, and what their linguistic and communication backgrounds have been, in addition to researching a control group that did not join the community would go some way to balancing the depth of research that goes into rehabilitation modes, particularly the cochlear implant, and consider whether the CI is as much a social success as it can be a medical one.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Enter the code shown below before pressing post

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text