UCL News


Signs of the times

18 January 2010

A new project, led by UCL's Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, is identifying and recording the regional variations of British Sign Language (BSL), (video, 4 mins 31).

Hands signing


This variation is the subject of the current BSL Corpus Project led by Dr Adam Schembri, Senior Research Fellow and Project Director at the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL).

The aim of the project is to create an online archive of video clips showing deaf people using BSL to research the grammar and vocabulary of the language, and ultimately to capture the variation that exists across the country and record how the language is changing.

The project marks a new approach in sign language research. Capturing data for research into sign language has historically been done filming deaf people interacting, but this footage has never been shared with other researchers or the deaf community. The BSL corpus will be the first British project of its kind to make this data available online, allowing anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection to use it. This will mean a greater exchange of ideas and information between sign language researchers and the Deaf community.

Dr Schembri said: "The BSL corpus project will help us understand the structure and use of BSL and how it has developed and is continuing to develop over time. This will have a major impact on the way BSL is taught and the way interpreters are trained in the future."

UCL context

DCAL brings together leading deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of sign linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience. DCAL started its research in 2006 and is the largest research centre in its field in Europe, with nearly 40 staff and research students, about a third of whom are deaf.

The British Sign Language Corpus project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, includes researchers from Bangor University (Wales), Heriot-Watt University (Scotland), Queens University Belfast (Northern Ireland) and the University of Bristol (England). To read more about the BSL Corpus Project, go to the links above.

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