Assessing comprehension of International Sign lectures: linguistic and sociolinguistic factors
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 10:50 authored by Lori A. Whynot
The dissertation assesses the communicative effectiveness of International Sign, a contact sign language phenomenon. The study responds to a void in empirical inquiry into this signed language contact variety. It analyzes expository conference lectures created by diverse deaf, international signers. The research comprises two related studies. The first is a lexicalfrequency analysis of collected expository International Sign data created by deaf presenters.It identifies lexical signs, i.e., those recognizably sourced from several lexifier native signlanguages such American Sign Language and Auslan (Australian Sign Language), or from known international sign vocabularies promoted by the World Federation of the Deaf and/orfrom their 1975 Unification of Signs Commission “Gestuno” initiative. The frequency studyalso identifies other sign types, such as partly-lexical signs (e.g., classifier or depicting signs,and indexing or pointing signs), and non-lexical signs (e.g., gestures and enactments). Thedistribution of all these sign types is compared to similar studies on native sign languages.High-frequency signs and depictions are identified for inclusion in comprehension testing instudy two. The second study uses a subset of texts from the first study to assess the comprehension of International Sign by 32 deaf participants in 5 countries who use unrelated native sign languages. In order to conduct these tests a comprehension test is first created.Employing both quantitative and qualitative methods, the study determines which linguisticand non-linguistic factors are most strongly related to improved comprehension levels.Comprehension of expository International Sign is quite varied with comprehension demonstrably lower than that of similar texts presented to the test participants in their nativesign language. Comprehension of text information is shown to be better at a general andglobal level rather than at a lower more specific level dealing with detailed information.Findings have implications for the effectiveness of International Sign as a “system ofuniversal access” in the increasingly varied usage settings to which it has been recently recruited.