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Sentence Repetition Test for Sign Language in German-speaking Switzerland (DSGS-SRT)

Background and aims

About 7,500 deaf people resident in Switzerland use a sign language. Approx. 5,500 of them live in the German-speaking cantons and use DSGS (German-Swiss Sign Language). Very few of these acquire DSGS as their first language, given that about 90-95% of children with impaired hearing are born into hearing families. Language acquisition for both spoken and signed language follows highly diverse patterns within this group. It is very important, therefore, that specialists can draw on a tool for testing children’s development in both their spoken and their sign language. There is currently no test for DSGS.

The objective of the research project "Sentence Repetition Test for German-Swiss Sign Language" is to devise a tool for testing the DSGS skills of children with hearing disabilities in relation to various factors such as phonology, morphology and syntax. The research also analyses errors made by the participants in order to derive a better understanding of DSGS skills beyond dependence on age and language history.


Development of the test instrument (DSGS-SRT) After evaluating the existing Sentence Repetition Tests (SRT) for signed and spoken languages which served as a basis for adapting the DSGS test version, 76 stimuli sentences were composed by a specialised group consisting of experts who were all deaf. Two pilot tests were then conducted with deaf participants: one test to assess the level of difficulty of these sentences and one to categorise the sentences according to the children’s relative age of acquisition. The findings of these two pilot tests were a factor in reducing the number of sentences from 76 to 60. In another pilot test (including a training session for deaf testers), the SRT was performed with three deaf adults and children. The results led to the removal of a further 20 sentences. Similarly, the text manual was adapted and some of the sentences were re-included. Parallel to this, an evaluation questionnaire was drawn up, and this was later used to evaluate the data. Main test During the main test, 44 children and adolescents aged from nearly 7 to 16 years, all with hearing impairments, were tested with the SRT DSGS. Parallel to this, metadata were captured with the aid of a background questionnaire. Of these 44 children and adolescents, 32 had hearing parents and 12 had at least one deaf parent. The test manual, exercises and tasks were presented on a laptop. The children were asked to look at and repeat the sentences. They were recorded as they did so by a built-in webcam on the laptop for the purposes of subsequent evaluation.


The maximum possible score was 160. The highest score obtained by participants was 156, and the lowest was 8. The mean was 91.55 points. To insure that the SRT for DSGS can identify differences between younger and older children, the research team examined whether there was a link between the children’s scores and their age. The findings show that on average older children scored higher in the test than younger children. The team also examined whether there was a link between test scores and parental hearing status (hearing vs. deaf): on average the deaf children of deaf parents (after controlling for age) obtained higher scores than the deaf children of hearing parents. This approach is based on an assumption that deaf parents communicate in a sign language with their children and that these children acquire a sign language as their first language, whereas for the deaf children of hearing parents access to a language is far more heterogeneous. Further statistical research is currently underway.


  • Enns, C., Haug, T., Herman, R., Hoffmeister, R. J., Mann, W. & Mcquarrie, L. (2016). Exploring Signed Language Assessment Tools in Europe and North America. In M. Marschark, V. Lampropoulou, & E. K. Skordilis (eds), Diversity in Deaf Education, (pp. 171–218). Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.



  • Haug, T., Notter, C., Girard, S. & Audeoud, M. (July 2015). Constructing Sign Language Tests for Small Deaf Communities: The Case of the Sentence Repetition Test for Swiss German Sign Language (DSGS). Presentation to the 22nd Congress on the Education of the Deaf, Athens.



Project Management

Prof. Dr.  Haug

Leiter Bachelorstudiengang Gebärdensprachdolmetschen


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe