BSL, Auslan and NZSL: three signed languages or one?

Trevor Johnston

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


    In this paper, I present a new analysis of the lexicons of these three signed languages and ASL using criteria recognising a distinction between signs and lexemes proposed by Johnston & Schembri (1999). The new data suggest that Auslan, BSL and NZSL should be considered as varieties or dialects of the same sign language, with an even higher degree of mutual intelligibility and lexical overlap than hitherto assumed. The data also suggest that there are varieties of BSL that differ more from each other than either does with at least one variety of Auslan. The degree of overlap in the lexicons examined suggests a closer underlying similarity in the meaning of signs cross-linguistically which cannot be explained by genetic or historical relationships alone.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCross-linguistic perspectives in sign language research
    Subtitle of host publicationselected papers from TISLR 2000
    EditorsAnn Baker, Beppie van den Bogaerde, Onno Crasborn
    Place of PublicationHamburg
    Number of pages23
    ISBN (Print)3927731889
    Publication statusPublished - 2003
    EventTheoretical Issues in Sign Language Research Conference (7th : 2000) - Amsterdam
    Duration: 22 Jul 200027 Jul 2000

    Publication series

    NameInternational studies on sign language and the communication of the deaf


    ConferenceTheoretical Issues in Sign Language Research Conference (7th : 2000)


    • sign language
    • British Sign Language (BSL)
    • Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN)
    • New Zealand Sign Language (NZS)
    • sign language research


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