Variation of sign parameters in narrative and expository discourse A view from Israeli Sign Language

Shirit Cohen-Koka, Bracha Nir, Irit Meir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper presents an in-depth study of variation in sign parameters of Israeli Sign Language (ISL). We describe and analyze specific sign parameters and their sub-parameters: handshape, orientation, place of articulation, and movement, as they are distributed in two text-types: narrative and expository discourse. A group of 16 deaf native ISL signers produced 32 texts containing a total of 6,875 signs which were then analyzed from a bottom-up approach. A sub-set of 3,919 signs out of this large database (excluding signs that are inherently variable) were found eligible for the detailed distributional analysis of text-dependent variation in terms of their articulation structure, and were used for comparison between the narrative and expository productions. Our findings show that narratives attract more variation in the sign parameters compared to expository texts. The study thus highlights the impact of communicative context on the use of signs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-257
Number of pages40
JournalSign Language and Linguistics (Online)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 31 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 John Benjamins Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


  • discourse
  • expository
  • Israeli Sign Language
  • narrative
  • sign parameters
  • variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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