Lexical variation and change in British Sign Language

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Rose Stamp
  • Jordan Fenlon
  • Ramas Rentelis
  • Bencie Woll
  • Kearsy Cormier

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • UCL


This paper presents results from a corpus-based study investigating lexical variation in BSL. An earlier study investigating variation in BSL numeral signs found that younger signers were using a decreasing variety of regionally distinct variants, suggesting that levelling may be taking place. Here, we report findings from a larger investigation looking at regional lexical variants for colours, countries, numbers and UK placenames elicited as part of the BSL Corpus Project. Age, school location and language background were significant predictors of lexical variation, with younger signers using a more levelled variety. This change appears to be happening faster in particular sub-groups of the deaf community (e.g., signers from hearing families). Also, we find that for the names of some UK cities, signers from outside the region use a different sign than those who live in the region.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere94053
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2014