Why is more work on the BSL Corpus needed?

A modern linguistic corpus (e.g., the British National Corpus of English) is large, representative, accessible, and importantly, machine-readable (i.e., can be searched by a computer). The dataset that we refer to as the “BSL Corpus” is not yet a true corpus because it is not yet machine-readable. Annotations and translations are needed to make it machine-readable.

Therefore current and future projects that use the BSL Corpus video data include annotation and translation as key elements in the project methodology so that the BSL Corpus can become a true sign language corpus in the future. A more searchable, accessible BSL Corpus will enable more research on the structure and use of BSL. This will in turn bring about improvements to the training of BSL teachers, sign language interpreters and educators of deaf children. Furthermore, annotations and translation enable work comparing BSL with related and unrelated sign and spoken languages elsewhere in the world, and will lead to an improved understanding of human language in general.

The major studies from the original BSL Corpus Project (2008-2011) were on phonological variation (1-handshape study), lexical variation (signs for colours, countries, numbers and UK place names), and lexical frequency (based on 25,000 sign tokens from conversation). See the Publications page for papers on each of these.

BSL SignBank
Under the BSL Corpus Project, a lexical database was created as part of a study on lexical frequency. This lexical database, which documents 50,000 signs from four regions from the BSL Corpus data (Bristol, Birmingham, London and Manchester) was transformed into an online dictionary, BSL SignBank, as part of work on language documentation and language change by the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre between 2011 and 2015. BSL SignBank has been available online since September 2014 but continues to grow and evolve as we research more about BSL and annotate more of the BSL Corpus.
Researchers involved: Kearsy Cormier, Jordan Fenlon, Sannah Gulamani, Sandra SmithKatherine Rowley, Robert Adam, Alan Wendt, Bencie Woll

Directional Verbs Project (2012-2014)
The aim of this project is to use the sign language data collected under the BSL Corpus Project, and to conduct an investigation into variation and change in the use of directional verbs in BSL. More…

Digging into Signs Project (2014-2015)
The aim of this project is to develop cross-corpus annotation standards for sign language data, using the BSL Corpus in the UK and Corpus NGT  in the Netherlands, and to improve current software tools in working with sign language corpora. More…
Researchers involved: Kearsy CormierJordan FenlonSannah Gulamani, Sandra Smith

BSL Syntax Project (2016-2019)
The aim of this project is to document and describe word order and non-manual features in different types of BSL sentences. More…