The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language

A case study of contemporary sign lexicography

Authored by: Rachel McKee , David McKee

The Routledge Handbook of Lexicography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138941601
eBook ISBN: 9781315104942
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315104942.ch25

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Abstract

Signed languages evolve wherever communities of Deaf people form. Ethnologue (2016) lists 141 named signed languages and notes the existence of many more that are not listed; some are considered threatened. National sign languages commonly developed in the context of residential schools for the Deaf (from the eighteenth century onwards) which brought together Deaf children from amongst hearing populations and formed the basis for adult communities. Isolated villages in which hereditary deafness is prevalent are also contexts for the emergence and transmission of smaller-scale signed languages (Meir, Sandler, Padden and Aranoff 2010). Sign languages in different countries have familial relationships that do not always mirror the distribution of spoken languages; for instance, British, New Zealand and Australian Sign Languages are mutually intelligible, yet unrelated to American Sign Language which is used in an English-speaking continent (McKee and Kennedy 2000). However, in some countries sign language varieties do correspond with spoken language boundaries; for example, Deaf communities in Dutch- and French-speaking states of Belgium use differentiated sign language varieties (van Mulders 2004). Historical relationships between signed languages are often traceable to specific trans-national influences in the establishment of Deaf schools or foreign-led development projects which introduce a sign language from another nation. Documentation of signed languages has burgeoned since the late 1960s, inspired in particular by Stokoe et al.’s seminal work on the 1965 dictionary of American Sign Language which analysed signs in phonological terms, leading to further linguistic description of signed languages.

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