Investigating sign language variation through intelligibility testing: The recorded text test retelling method

TISLR_poster.pdf1.02 MB
10th International Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR 10), West Lafayette, Indiana, USA, Purdue University, Aug 30 - Sept 2, 2010
1 p.
The Recorded Text Test (RTT) is a method of language variety intelligibility testing that was developed to investigate levels of comprehension between language communities. There are two primary ways that this tool has been used in spoken languages: Grimes’ (1995) methodology which develops a list of specific questions about the text to be answered by the participant (RTT-Q), and Kluge’s (2006) approach which asks participants to retell a text with scoring based on the inclusion of particular content points (RTT-R). Although the use of RTTs for exploring variation has not been widely used with sign languages, we propose that with careful attention to deaf cultural factors, this intelligibility testing method can be successfully adapted and applied to provide valuable insights into sign language variation among diverse deaf communities. Because of the widespread influence of American Sign Language (ASL) throughout various regions of the world, we investigated ASL intelligibility in a few countries that have a historical connection with the United States. During our initial research, we focused on three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where deaf schools or religious ministries have been started by organizations from the United States, but sign language varieties in use are perceived to be distinct from ASL: Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. This study demonstrates that the RTT intelligibility testing used in spoken languages can be successfully adapted to be used in deaf cultural contexts with visual-gestural languages, providing a quantitative means for studying sign language variation and use. The results of this type of research can provide significant clues in evaluating the accessibility of sign language materials among related sign language communities, especially in conjunction with other research methods such as wordlist comparisons and sociolinguistic questionnaires.
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Finished (not designed for publication)
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Work Type:
sign language
Intelligibility testing
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