Phonological variation and change in Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages: The location variable

Adam Schembri*, David McKee, Rachel McKee, Sara Pivac, Trevor Johnston, Della Goswell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    62 Citations (Scopus)
    471 Downloads (Pure)


    In this study, we consider variation in a class of signs in Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages that includes the signs think, name, and clever. In their citation form, these signs are specified for a place of articulation at or near the signer's forehead or above, but are sometimes produced at lower locations. An analysis of 2667 tokens collected from 205 deaf signers in five sites across Australia and of 2096 tokens collected from 138 deaf signers from three regions in New Zealand indicates that location variation in these signs reflects both linguistic and social factors, as also reported for American Sign Language (Lucas, Bayley, & Valli, 2001). Despite similarities, however, we find that some of the particular factors at work, and the kinds of influence they have, appear to differ in these three signed languages. Moreover, our results suggest that lexical frequency may also play a role.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-231
    Number of pages39
    JournalLanguage Variation and Change
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright 2009 Cambridge University Press. Article originally published in Language Variation and Change, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp. 193-231. The original article can be found at


    Dive into the research topics of 'Phonological variation and change in Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages: The location variable'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this