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Adam Schembri is Reader in Linguistics in the Department of English Language & Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK. He completed a PhD in linguistics at the University of Sydney in 2002, worked at the University of Bristol 2000-2002, at the University of Newcastle (Australia) 2003-2005, and at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at University College London during 2006-2010, where he initiated the British Sign Language Corpus Project ( His research and teaching experience has encompassed a number of areas in sign language linguistics, including work on aspects of the lexicon, grammar and sociolinguistics of Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and British Sign Language. He is the co-author (with Trevor Johnston) of ‘Australian Sign Language (Auslan): An introduction to sign language linguistics’, and co-editor with Ceil Lucas of ‘Sociolinguistics and Deaf Communities’, both published by Cambridge University Press.


2002 PhD (Linguistics), University of Sydney

1996 Diploma in Interpreting (Auslan/English), Sydney Institute of TAFE

1992 M.Litt (Linguistics), University of Sydney

1989 Diploma in Education (Secondary), Sydney College of Advanced Education

1988, BA (English Literature), University of Sydney

Other Publications


Schembri, A., Cormier, K., Fenlon, J. & Johnston, T. (forthcoming) An introduction to sign language linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Schembri, A. & Lucas, C. (Eds.), (2015). Sociolinguistics and Deaf communities.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Johnston, T. & Schembri, A. (2007). Australian Sign Language (Auslan): An introduction to sign language linguistics.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Peer-reviewed journal articles

Hodge, G., Sekine, K., Schembri, A. & Johnston, T. (accepted). Comparing signers and speakers: Building a directly comparable corpus of Auslan and Australian English. Corpora

Schembri, A., Cormier, K. & Fenlon, J. (2018). Indicating verbs as typologically unique constructions: Reconsidering verb ‘agreement’ in sign languages. Glossa. 

Schembri, A., Fenlon, J., Cormier, K. & Johnston, T. (2018).  Sociolinguistic typology and sign languages. Frontiers in Psychology. 

Fenlon, J., Schembri, A. & Cormier, K. (2018). Modification of indicating verbs in British Sign Language: A corpus-based study. Language

Stamp, R., Schembri, A., Evans, B. & Cormier, K. (2016) British Sign Language (BSL) regional varieties in contact: Investigating the patterns of accommodation and language change. Journal of Deaf Studies & Deaf Education21(1): 70-82.

Cormier, K., Fenlon, J. & Schembri, A. (2016). Indicating verbs in British Sign Language favour use of motivated space. Open Linguistics 1: 684-707.. 

Fenlon, J., Cormier, K. & Schembri, A. (2015). Building BSL SignBank: The lemma dilemma revisited. International Journal of Lexicography 28(2): 169-206.

Johnston, T., Cresdee, D., Schembri, A. & Woll, B. (2015) FINISH variation and grammaticalization in a signed language: How far down this well-trodden pathway is Auslan (Australian Sign Language)? Language Variation and Change 27(1): 117-155. 

Johnston, T., van Roekel, J. & Schembri, A. (2015) On the conventionalization of mouth actions in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). Language and Speech 58(1): 315-339.

Stamp, R., Schembri, A., Fenlon, J. & Rentelis, R. (2015). Variation and change in British Sign Language number signs. Sign Language Studies, 15 (2): 151-181.

Green, J., Kelly, B. & Schembri, A. (2014). Finding common ground: Sign language and gesture research in Australia. Australian Journal of Linguistics 34(2).

Stamp, R., Schembri, A., Fenlon, J. & Rentelis, R., Woll, B. & Cormier, K. (2014). Lexical variation and change in British Sign Language. PLoS ONE9(4): e94053. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094053. 

Fenlon, J., Schembri, A., Rentelis, R., Vinson, D. & Cormier, K. (2014). Using conversational data to determine lexical frequency in British Sign Language: The influence of text type. Lingua 143, 187-202.

Cormier, K., Schembri, A., & Woll, B. (2013). Pronouns and pointing: where do sign languages fit? Lingua 137, 230-247.

Schembri, A., Fenlon, F., Rentelis, R., Reynolds, S. & Cormier, K. (2013). Building the British Sign Language Corpus. Language Documentation and Conservation 7, 136-154.

Fenlon, J., Schembri, A., Rentelis, R., & Cormier, K. (2013). Variation in handshape and orientation in British Sign Language: The case of the ‘1’ hand configuration. Language and Communication 33(1), 69-91.

Cormier, K., Schembri, A., Vinson, D., & Orfanidou, E. (2012). First language acquisition differs from second language acquisition in prelingually deaf signers: Evidence from the grammatical processing of British Sign Language. Cognition124(1); 50-65.

McKee, R., Schembri, A., McKee, D., & Johnston, T. (2011). Variable subject expression in Australian Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language. Language Variation and Change 23(3), 1-24.

Lewin, D. & Schembri, A. (2011). Mouth gestures in British Sign Language (BSL): A case study of tongue protrusion in BSL narratives.Sign Language & Linguistics 14(1), 94-114.

Comrier, K., Schembri, A. & Woll, B. (2010). Diversity across sign languages and spoken languages–Implications for language universals (A response to Evans & Levinson). Lingua 120 (12), 2664-2667. 

Johnston, T. & Schembri, A. (2010). Variation, lexicalization and grammaticalization in signed languages.In: B. Garcia &t M. Derycke (Eds.), Sourds et langue des signs: Normes et variation. Langage et société 131, 5-17.

De Beuzeville, L., Johnston, T. & Schembri, A. (2009). The use of space with indicating verbs in Australian Sign Language: A corpus-based investigation. Sign Language & Linguistics 12(1), 53-82.

Schembri, A., McKee, D., McKee, R., Johnston, T., Goswell, D. & Pivac, S. (2009). Phonological variation and change in Australian and New Zealand Sign Languages: The location variable.Language Variation and Change 21(2), 193-231.

Vinson, D. P., Cormier, K., Denmark, T., Schembri, A. & Vigliocco, G. (2008).The British Sign Language norms for acquisition, familiarity and iconicity. Behaviour Research Methods40(4), 1079-1087.

Cormier, K., Schembri, A. & Tyrone, M. (2008). One hand or two?: A crosslinguistic analysis of the non-native lexicon in signed languages.Sign Language & Linguistics11(1), 3-44.

Schembri, A. & Johnston, T. (2007). Sociolinguistic variation in the use of fingerspelling in Australian Sign Language: A pilot study. Sign Language Studies7:3, 319-347.

Schembri, A., Jones, C., & Burnham, D. (2005). Comparing action gestures and classifier verbs of motion: Evidence from Australian Sign Language, Taiwan Sign Language, and non-signers’ gestures without speech.Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 10:3, 272-290.

Schembri, A., Wigglesworth, G., Johnston, T., Leigh, R., Adam, R. & Barker, R. (2002). Issues in the development of the Test Battery for Australian Sign Language Morphology and Syntax. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education7:1, 18-40.

Johnston, T. & Schembri, A. (1999). On defining lexeme in a sign language. Sign Language & Linguistics, 2:2, 115-185.

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