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Sociolinguistic variation in the nativisation of BSL fingerspelling

Brown, M; Cormier, KA; (2017) Sociolinguistic variation in the nativisation of BSL fingerspelling. Open Linguistics , 3 (1) 10.1515/opli-2017-0007. Green open access

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Abstract

British Sign Language (BSL) is a visual-gestural language distinct from spoken languages used in the United Kingdom but in contact with them. One product of this contact is the use of fingerspelling to represent English words via their orthography. Fingerspelled loans can become “nativised”, adapting manual production to conform more closely to the native lexicon’s inventory of phonemic constraints. Much of the previous literature on fingerspelling has focused on one-handed systems but, unlike the majority of sign languages, BSL uses a two-handed manual alphabet. What is the nature of nativisation in BSL, and does it exhibit sociolinguistic variation? We apply a cross-linguistic model of nativisation to BSL Corpus conversation and narrative data (http://bslcorpusproject.org) obtained from 150 signers in 6 UK regions. Mixed effects modelling is employed to determine the influence of social factors. Results show that the participants’ home region is the most significant factor, with London and Birmingham signers significantly favouring use of fully nativised fingerspelled forms. Non-nativised sequences are significantly favoured in signers of increasing age in Glasgow and Belfast. Gender and parental language background are not found to be significant factors in nativisation. The findings also suggest a form of reduction specific to London and Birmingham.

Type: Article
Title: Sociolinguistic variation in the nativisation of BSL fingerspelling
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1515/opli-2017-0007
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0007
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 Matt Brown, Kearsy Cormier, published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License
Keywords: British Sign Language, fingerspelling, sociolinguistic variation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1545811
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