A Lexical Frequency Analysis of Irish Sign Language
Keywords:Irish Sign Language, Lexical Frequency, Corpus, Grammatical class
Word frequency has a significant impact on language acquisition and fluency. It is often a point of reference for the teaching and assessing of a language and indeed, as a control for psycholinguistic studies. This paper presents the results of the first objective frequency analysis of lexical tokens from the Signs of Ireland corpus. We investigate the frequency of fully lexical, partly lexical and non-lexical signs in Irish Sign Language as they are presented in the corpus. We confirm the accuracy of the lexical gloss frequency data with a supplementary corpus subset that is tagged for grammatical class and additional insights from previous lexical frequency studies conducted for American Sign Language, Australian Sign Language, British Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language. This approach has informed us that signers who learn the 100 most frequent signs in Irish Sign Language, will know a third of the language’s vocabulary. This study has found that, in the main, frequency statistics from Irish Sign Language are in line with previous studies and that the text type and annotation strategy can significantly impact results. We found that, without a formalised lexicon, lexical glosses fell short of the requirements for a lexical frequency analysis. However, supported by grammatical class data, frequency data may be reported for symbolic units.
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