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Sociolinguistic Variation in Mouthings in British Sign Language: A Corpus-Based Study

Proctor, Heidi; Cormier, Kearsy; (2022) Sociolinguistic Variation in Mouthings in British Sign Language: A Corpus-Based Study. Language and Speech 10.1177/00238309221107002. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Mouth activity forms a key component of all sign languages. This can be divided into mouthings, which originate from words in the ambient spoken language, and mouth gestures, which do not. This study examines the relationship between the distribution of mouthings co-occurring with verb signs in British Sign Language (BSL) and various linguistic and social factors, using the BSL Corpus. We find considerable variation between participants and a lack of homogeneity in mouth actions with particular signs. This accords with previous theories that mouthings constitute code-blending between spoken and signed languages—similar to code-switching or code-mixing in spoken languages—rather than being a phonologically or lexically compulsory part of the sign. We also find a strong association between production of plain verbs (which are body-anchored and cannot be modified spatially) and increased mouthing. In addition, we observe significant effects of region (signers from the south of the United Kingdom mouth more than those from the north), gender (women mouth more than men), and age (signers aged 16–35 years produce fewer mouthings than older participants). We find no significant effect of language background (deaf vs. hearing family). Based on these findings, we argue that the multimodal, multilingual, and simultaneous nature of code-blending in sign languages fits well within the paradigm of translanguaging. We discuss implications of this for concepts of translanguaging, code-switching, code-mixing, and related phenomena, highlighting the need to consider not just modality and linguistic codes but also sequential versus simultaneous patterning.

Type: Article
Title: Sociolinguistic Variation in Mouthings in British Sign Language: A Corpus-Based Study
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/00238309221107002
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/00238309221107002
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: Sign language, deaf, BSL, mouthing, code-blending, code-switching, code-mixing, translanguaging, simultaneity, phonology, morphological complexity, lexicon, verbs, sociolinguistic variation, corpus linguistics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10153351
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