Phonological variation and change in Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages: The location variable Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractIn 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.


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

publication date

  • July 2009