This seminar will be held online, via Zoom, on 2 december 3.30 – 5.00 PM. An invitation link will be sent out via email lists. If you wish to attend but have not received a link, please contact Pia Simper-Allen: pia@ling.su.se

Sign language interpreters will participate in the seminar. 

Main speaker

Dr. Kate Rowley is a Deaf researcher, specialising in language and literacy development of deaf children. She is interested in promoting bilingualism & multilingualism in deaf children and adults. She works at DCAL, University College London as Lecturer in Deafness, Cognition and Language. 

Abstract

British Sign Language (BSL) has a high degree of regional variation especially at the lexical level. There are also age-related differences and evidence that BSL is changing. However, little is known about how BSL signers view language variation and change.  This study explores awareness and attitudes of the British deaf community towards language variation and change. We studied interview data from the British Sign Language Corpus (http://bslcorpusproject.org/data) from deaf, BSL signers from 6 regions across the U.K. including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, London and Manchester, focusing on responses to questions in relation to regional & age variation, as well as language change. Responses were analysed using thematic analysis, following Braun and Clark (2006). Findings reveal that BSL signers exhibited overall high levels of meta-linguistic awareness, as many of their attitudes and beliefs were in line with what has been reported in relation to linguistic behaviour with BSL such as lexical variation/change, mouthing, fingerspelling and accommodation. In addition, BSL signers seem to place enormous value on variation in BSL, believing that such variation contributes to the richness of BSL as a language and puts it on equal footing with the surrounding majority language, i.e., English. BSL signers also welcomed some changes in BSL, e.g., signs for new technologies, concepts. Some changes were less welcome and deemed as a threat to the vitality of BSL.  We explore the implications of these attitudes towards a broader understanding of language ideologies, including the concept of accent and language endangerment.