Title: Counting the difference: variation in the numerals of Japanese

Title: Counting the difference: variation in the numerals of Japanese, Taiwan and South Korean Sign
Language (International Sign)
Attachment TISLR_12_attachment_85.pdf
Author keywords:
Japanese Sign Language
lexical variation
sociolinguistic variation
EasyChair keyphrases: sign language (110), indonesian sign language variety (40)
Topics: historical sign language linguistics, including sign language emergence, sociolinguistic variation
and change in sign languages
Abstract: Numerals in Japanese Sign Language (JSL) exhibit lexical variation (Sagara, 2014), as do
numerals in many other sign languages such as New Zealand Sign Language (McKee and McKee, 2011)
and Indonesian Sign Language (Palfreyman, 2015). Yonaiyama(2003) notes that members of the
Japanese deaf community are aware that different signs are used across the two main regions of
Japan: Kansai (including Osaka) in the west and Kanto (including Tokyo) in the east. In the Kansai
region of Japan, the numerals 10, 100 and 1000 are traditionally shown using contact between the
thumb and selected fingers of the dominant hand, whereby the number of selected fingers
corresponds with the number of zeros in the numeral. This was once a highly productive system, but
its productivity has lessened significantly over time. An alternative set of variants is prevalent in the
Kantō region of Japan, using numeral incorporation to express multiples of 10, 100 and 1000.
Our research aims to identify linguistic and social factors that affect the choice of numeral variant in
JSL, focusing on variants for 10, 100, 1000 in Kansai and Kantō. Multivariate analysis of data obtained
from 37 signers of different ages (using Rbrul, Johnson 2008) confirms that older Kansai signers prefer
traditional variants. We find that, while younger Kansai signers are more likely to use Kantō variants
for 10 and 100, use of the Kansai system for 1000 is much more prevalent in both regions. It may be
that this particular sign functions as an indexical marker of Kansai identity, although this hypothesis
must be tested further.
In addition, we seek to analyse these findings in light of extensive historical contact between JSL,
Taiwan Sign Language and South Korean Sign Language (SKSL) (Fischer and Gong 2011). There are
similarities between these languages in the expression of numerals: for example, Kansai and Kantō
variants are both used in SKSL, and the time 10:10 is shown in a single composite sign with a different
variant for ‘10’ on each hand. Meanwhile, contact between Japan and Taiwan, described by Sasaki
(2007) has led to the burgeoning of different numeral systems in different parts of Taiwan: Taipei, in
the north, and Tainan in the south (Sagara, 2014).
This investigation contributes to the growing research on sign language variation (Schembri and
Johnston, 2013), particularly for numerals (e.g. Stamp, 2013, on BSL). Analysis through mixed effect
logistic regression is combined with findings taken from a larger typological survey of numerals
(Zeshan and Sagara, 2015) to shed light on diachronic variation and the diffusion of variant forms
across Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.
Keiko Sagara Japan, National Museum of Ethnology
Nick Palfreyman United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, iSLanDS Institute, University
of Central Lancashir
Fischer, Susan and Qunhu, Gong (2011) Variation in East Asian sign language structures. In Diane
Brentari (ed) Sign Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 499–518.
Johnson, Daniel Ezra (2008). Getting off the GoldVarb standard: Introducing Rbrul for mixed-effects
variable rule analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass 3.359-383.
McKee, Rachel and David, McKee(2011). Old Signs, New Signs, Whose Signs? Sociolinguistic
Variation in the NZSL Lexicon. Sign Language Studies 11(4), pp. 485-527.
Palfreyman, Nick (2015) Variation and change in the numeral system of Indonesian sign language
varieties, and Colour terms in two Indonesian sign language varieties. Both to appear in: Zeshan
and Sagara .
Sagara, Keiko (2014) The numeral system of Japanese Sign Language from a cross- linguistics
perspective. MPhil thesis. University of Central Lancashire. Preston. UK
Sasaki, Daisuke (2007) Part Two: Lexical Comparisons: Comparing the Lexicons Japanese Sign
Language and Taiwan Sign Language: A Preliminary Study Focusing on the Difference in the
Handshape Parameter. In Sign Languages in Contact. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University
Schembri, Adam & Trevor Johnston (2013). Sociolinguistic variation and change in sign languages.
In: R. Bayley, R. Cameron & C. Lucas (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics (pp. 503-524).
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Stamp, Rose (2013) Sociolinguistic variation, language change and contact in the British Sign
Language (BSL) lexicon. PhD thesis, UCL, London.
Yonaiyama, Akihiro(2003) Shuwa nimo hougen ga aru [ Sign language has variation]. Gengo
[Language], Special issue: Languages and bilingualism, 3(8), pp. 80-83.
Zeshan, Ulrike & Keiko Sagara (2015) Semantic Fields in Sign Languages. Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter & Nijmegen: Ishara Press.