The numeral system of Japanese Sign Language from a cross-linguistic perspective

Sagara, Keiko (2014) The numeral system of Japanese Sign Language from a cross-linguistic perspective. Masters thesis, University of Central lLancashire.

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This thesis investigates how the Japanese Sign Language (JSL) numeral system can be characterised with respect to aspects of the linguistic structure of JSL numerals at the phonological and morphological levels; to typological comparisons with other sign languages; and, finally, to sociolinguistic variation. Data for JSL were collected, using various elicitation games, from a total of 37 participants from the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan. Data for other signed languages were taken from the Sign Language Typology Project, based at the University of Central Lancashire and also from various academic sources. The study examines the semantic motivation prevalent in JSL numerals due to influence from the writing system of Japan, Kanji. Three main historical developments affecting JSL numeral signs include increased reliance on Kanji-based representations, a decrease in forms motivated by visual iconicity, and increased standardisation of forms due to a reduction in school-based variants. The analysis makes reference to four groups of sign languages and aims to carry out a comparison of each group with JSL. Group 1 consists of the JSL language family and includes South Korean Sign Language (SKSL) and Taiwan Sign Language (TSL). Group 2 comprises Chinese Sign Language, which shares similarities with JSL by way of the Kanji writing system. Group 3 contains the following urban sign languages: British Sign Language, Czech Sign Language, Ugandan Sign Language, Greek Sign Language, Argentine Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language, Indonesian Sign Language, and Turkish Sign Language. Finally, Group 4 includes village sign languages such as Alipur Sign Language, Chican Sign Language and Mardin Sign Language. A higher level of similarity is found across JSL, SKSL and TSL, and the findings suggest considerable borrowing between TSL, SKSL and JSL in the domain of numerals.

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