Sociolinguistic variation in the use of fingerspelling in Australian Sign Language: A pilot study

Adam Schembri*, Trevor Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    This article presents the results from a preliminary investigation into the use of fingerspelling in Australian Sign Language (Auslan), drawing on data collected as part of the Sociolinguistic Variation in Australian Sign Language project (Schembri and Johnston 2004; Schembri, Johnston, and Goswell in press). This major project is a replication in the Australian deaf community of quantitative investigations into variation in American Sign Language (ASL) conducted by Lucas, Bayley, and Valli (2001). In this specific study, we consider variation in the use of the two-handed manual alphabet in Auslan, based on an analysis of 2,667 utterances collected from 205 deaf signers of Auslan in five sites across Australia (i.e., Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide). The results indicate that the variation in the frequency of fingerspelling use most strongly correlates with signers' age, but may also vary according to region, as has also been reported for British Sign Language (BSL) (Sutton-Spence, Woll, and Allsop 1990).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319-347
    Number of pages28
    JournalSign Language Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


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