Jul 14

Annotation updates are available as of July 2015 – for details see Updates on CAVA (particularly the release notes).

Jun 2

The Digging into Signs project (2014-2015) final report is now available.

Jan 16

The Digging into Signs team is hosting a workshop on 30-31 March 2015 at University College London to share our joint annotation standards with other sign language corpus projects and to get some feedback on them. The programme consists of presentations and posters by researchers who have sign language corpus projects underway and have begun annotation.

Sep 25
BSL SignBank now online
icon1 Kearsy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 25th September 2014| icon3No Comments »

The latest output from the BSL Corpus is BSL SignBank, the first usage-based dictionary of BSL based on signs occurring in the BSL Corpus. For more, see our press release:


Jun 23

A new project called Digging into Signs, a partnership between UCL and Radboud University Nijmegen aims to create clear standards for annotation of sign language corpus data in order to help make cross-linguistic corpus research possible. The project, led by PIs Kearsy Cormier and Onno Crasborn and running for one year from June 2014, will use data from the recently collected BSL Corpus and also Corpus NGT (Sign Language of the Netherlands). For more information, see the project website:


Apr 24

England’s regional sign language dialects ‘in decline’


Apr 23

Hot off the press!
New paper on lexical variation and change in BSL in PLOS ONE,
by Rose Stamp, Adam Schembri, Jordan Fenlon, Ramas Rentelis, Bencie Woll & Kearsy Cormier

Lexical Variation and Change in British Sign Language
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.

See also press release “Language isn’t what it used to be (British Sign Language – that is)”, both in English and BSL

Oct 29

A new project based on the BSL Corpus Project data will begin in December 2012 on directional verbs: a corpus-based study of variation and change in the use of directional verbs in BSL, led by Kearsy Cormier (DCAL, UCL) and Adam Schembri (La Trobe University, Melbourne), working with Jordan Fenlon (DCAL, UCL). The project runs from Dec 2012 to May 2014. For more info: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/silva/dcal/research/research-projects/directional-verbs

Oct 9

The BSL Corpus Project and DCAL respond to the Guardian article “Signs of the times: Deaf community minds its language” (8 October 2012):

8 October 2012

Dear Editor,

We would like to thank The Guardian for recently covering our research, and issues relevant to the study of BSL, in the article Signs of the times: deaf community minds its language (08.10.12). We welcome opportunities to bring our research to the attention of the general public. However, your coverage contained a number of inaccuracies, unsupported claims and (most importantly) misrepresentations of our research.

The aim of the BSL Corpus Project, directed by Dr. Adam Schembri and Dr. Kearsy Cormier, was to create a collection of BSL signing and to find how BSL varies and how it is changing, not just in vocabulary but also in aspects of the grammar. The Guardian article uses findings from this research (and observations unrelated to this project) to create a story about political correctness.

The BSL Corpus Project did collect data about signs for 102 concepts from 249 deaf signers from 8 cities across the UK. This included signs for some countries (USA, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland and Italy). However, we did not collect data on signs about Jewish or gay or disabled people.

The explanations given for signs for countries are not accurate and should not be reported as fact. Iconicity is a visual link between the meaning and the form of a sign. As signs change over time this link can become more obscure and explanations of these links are often inaccurate or a matter of conjecture. Furthermore, the actual history behind most signs is unknown.

We have never described BSL as becoming more ‘culturally sensitive’ (to do so would imply that deaf people were insensitive before and there is no evidence of this), but ‘cultural sensitivity’ is touted as a ‘discovery’ that appears to be attributed to our research. The claim that such changes in BSL have ‘caused the deaf community concern’ is also unfounded.

Finally we, as language researchers, are absolutely not concerned about the rate of change of British Sign Language: all languages change and this is a natural process. However, we are concerned about the misrepresentation of academic research to create another ‘story’ about political correctness.

Bencie Woll

Director of the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL)


Kearsy Cormier (DCAL)

Adam Schembri (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

Directors of the British Sign Language Corpus Project

Jan 19

The BSL Corpus Project final report to the Economic and Social Research Council is now available. The final report provides a project overview, summarises the methodology and major findings, and early and anticipated impacts within academia and the community.

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