Abstract

In this article, we outline the initial stages in development of an assessment instrument for Australian Sign Language and explore issues involved in the development of such a test. We first briefly describe the instruments currently available for assessing grammatical skills in Australian Sign Language and discuss the need for a more objective measure. We then describe our adaptation of an existing American Sign Language test, the Test Battery for American Sign Language Morphology and Syntax. Finally, this article presents some of the data collected from a group of deaf native signers. These data are used to demonstrate the range of variability in key grammatical features of Australian Sign Language and to raise methodological issues associated with signed language test design.

This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Small Grants Scheme through Macquarie University in 1997 and 1998 and by critical ongoing assistance from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) in Sydney, Australia. It was conducted while the first author was at RIDBC. We thank the deaf people from around Australia who participated in this study and Colin Allen, Darlene Thornton, and Marcia Girke for assistance with refilming the test materials. We also thank Ted Supalla and Elissa Newport for agreeing to share the Test Battery for American Sign Language Morphology and Syntax manuscript and videotape with us, Jenny Singleton for e-mail discussions about the test, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this article.