Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in British Sign Language Number Signs: Evidence of Leveling?
Abstract

Abstract:

This article presents findings from the first major study to investigate lexical variation and change in British Sign Language (BSL) number signs. As part of the BSL Corpus Project, number sign variants were elicited from 249 deaf signers from eight sites throughout the UK. Age, school location, and language background were found to be significant predictors for the use of regional number sign variants. The results suggest that leveling may be taking place in BSL number signs inasmuch as younger signers are using a decreasing variety of regionally distinct number sign variants. These results need to be understood in light of the sociolinguistic characteristics of the British deaf community, which differ from those of spoken language communities, with which linguists are more familiar.