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The British Sign Language (BSL) Corpus Project: Sociolinguistic variation, language change, language contact and lexical frequency in BSL

  • Start date: 01 January 2008
  • End date: 30 June 2011

The aim of this project is to:

  • create an innovative corpus (ie, computerised collection of annotated language recordings) of British Sign Language (BSL, the language of the British deaf community)
  • conduct corpus-based investigations into the vocabulary, grammar and sociolinguistics of BSL in order to understand how it varies and how it is changing.

In this project, data is collected from 240 deaf signers of BSL from eight sites across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The corpus is as representative of the deaf community as possible, including a balance of deaf 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.

Advances in technology have made it possible for the first time to collect these video recordings of sign language data, store them digitally, give them annotations and make them accessible on-line. This will provide the first national, web-based, publicly accessible BSL corpus that will become essential for sign language research and teaching in the years to come. (Note: Dr. Adam Schembri was Grant Holder 2008-2010; Dr. Kearsy Cormier took over as Grant Holder January-June 2011.)

Evolution of BSL

Participant: Jordan Fenlon Date: 19 February 2013 Audio/video recording