In this session we consider what varies when a language varies. We will think about pronunciation, lexicon, idiom,
grammar and discourse differences within a language.
We will see which of these variables are useful markers for sign language
This session will introduce the concept of situational variance. It will briefly outline ideas of diglossia before
moving on to Joos' "Five clocks", describing frozen, formal, consultative,
casual and intimate registers. We will
discuss the features of these registers as proposed by Joos and how they might be realised
in BSL, with special reference to Zimmer's work in ASL.
Generally, features of "casual" and "formal" BSL will be
outlined. We will compare the situations in which BSL and English are used to allow
relevant registers to be used.
This session takes an alternative view of situational variance,
looking at registers as being determined by mode, field and tenor of the situation. Broadening variance beyond formality, the session
focuses on four specific registers. The
features of child-directed and deaf-blind BSL are determined by the status of the
conversational partner, while the narrative and informative registers have features
dictated by the subject matter and the aim of the signer.
This session will ask why regional dialects arise and how they are
maintained. It will compare forces for
creation and maintenance in English and BSL. It
will consider the role of the British school system for deaf people in the creation of
dialects and compare regional dialects with those of sign languages in other countries. It will describe some of the basic features of
research dialectology and consider how traditional field methods of regional dialect data
collection can be applied to sign language. It
will consider the findings of recent BSL regional dialect research.
In this first session on social variance in BSL we look at causes of
class and gender differences in English and in BSL. We
identify features of English and BSL that serve to identify the speaker/signer as a member
of a high social status group and consider different ideas of "class" in the two
languages. The importance of having a deaf or
hearing family for signers is emphasised. Features
of men's and women's language are described and accounted for according to the different
language and social experiences of men and women. The
situation arising out of the educational system of Ireland before 1970 is considered as an
example of extreme gender dialect differences. Analysis
of conversation of women and men friends in BSL shows features of the two gender dialects.
This session will explore social variation in BSL further. Again, it will emphasise the differences in social
variation in BSL and English, according to the different social structures of the deaf and
hearing communities in Britain today. The
social forces creating Gay Sign Variant will be compared to those that created Polari in
the hearing gay community, before the features of GSV are considered. The reasons for social dialects in English and BSL
that arise from ethnic identity will be presented, again with the focus on the different
social and language experiences of ethnic (especially Black and Asian) deaf and hearing
Britons. The relationship between ethnic
identity and religious identity of community members will be introduced. The features of and reasons behind identifiable
Roman Catholic and Jewish dialects of BSL will be described.
This session will introduce students to aspects of language that vary
with respect to the signers age. General
reference will be made to age differences in language, with respect to identity of younger
and older people as well as the social situation in which a community finds itself. Issues such as dialect levelling over time and the
special importance of education in the deaf community will be emphasised. We will question the relationship between age
dialects and language change in preparation for the next session.
This session will devote itself to the causes and features of
language change, most especially from the point of BSL.
We will outline some of the difficulties in documenting changes in BSL. We will introduce the concepts of
internal and external forces of language change and will then
examine the existing records of BSL to see what changes have occurred and why. The changes in the British manual alphabet will
also be described and accounted for.
Students will be introduced to the concept of language planning in
spoken languages and compare this with language planning in BSL. Issues surrounding standardisation in spoken and
especially written languages will be described, with a particular emphasis on the
development of standard English. Comparison
will then be made of the forces behind any possibly standardised form of BSL. Particular emphasis will be given to the effect of
the different social factors that operate in the two languages.