ISSN 1754-5366

A Lexical Comparison of Icelandic Sign Language and Danish Sign Language


This paper reports on the first empirical investigation of lexical similarity between Icelandic Sign Language and Danish Sign Language. Despite anecdotal reports of similarity between the two varieties and historical records detailing close contact between the two communities, to date no comparative study has been undertaken. Drawing on previous studies including Bickford (2005), McKee and Kennedy (1998, 2000a, 2000b) and Parkhurst and Parkhurst (2001), signs were elicited via a word list adapted from Swadesh (1955) and modified by Woodward (1978, 1991) for the purposes of researching sign languages. The signs for 292 lexical items were analysed by comparing the parameters of hand configuration(together with orientation of the hand/palm), location and movement and classified as Identical, Similar or Different. Results revealed a high percentage of similarity. A much higher degree of lexical similarity was found in the realisation of country names than any other semantic category. The study contributes to work in the field of Nordic Sign Languages and has methodological implications for the study of sign language vocabulary internationally.

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