Do Signers Understand Regional Varieties of a Sign Language? A Lexical Recognition Experiment

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The degree of mutual intelligibility of British Sign Language (BSL) regional varieties has been a subject of some debate. Recent research in which dyads of signers from contrasting regional backgrounds engaged in a conversational task showed no problems understanding one another. The present study investigated signers' knowledge of different BSL regional varieties. Twenty-five participants from Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, and Newcastle took part in a computer-based lexical recognition task in which they had to identify the meaning of 47 color signs from various regions in the United Kingdom. The results indicate that overall signers have a poor knowledge of regional signs for colors when signs are presented in isolation and without mouthing. Furthermore, signers with deaf parents performed better in the recognition task than signers with hearing parents and varieties from London and Birmingham were easiest to recognize. This article discusses how signers cope with regional differences and considers the features that facilitate in the recognition of regional varieties in BSL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

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© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


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