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Signs from the void: The comprehension and production of sign language on television

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This is a report on a pilot project commissioned by the BBC in conjunction with the author's final MA dissertation for Durham University. The purpose of the research was to investigate British Sign Language (BSL) production on television and its comprehension by the viewing audience. The data analysis could then be used for programme decisions relating to cultural and linguistic specifications. This is especially pertinent in view of the current Broadcasting Act in Great Britain, which stipulates 1% of sign language transmission on all digital and terrestrial television by 1999 and an increase to 5% by 2009.1
In the original research, 70 hours of signed data were recorded. Individual profiles were made for each signer on a sample tape as well as a thorough description of a respondent group.The research focused on a comprehension test.This involved three group categories reflecting two varieties of sign language users, a group whose BSL is most informed (influenced) by English, another whose BSL is dominant, and a hearing (non-signing) group used for comparison. All sample and test responses were analysed and profiled in view of signing production and psychosocial treatment of the language. The use of sign language on television was compared with its wider use among deaf people.This paper summarises and concludes the discussion and recommendations that may be directly referred to by programme makers and translators/interpreters.2
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1998

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