Current research:

From gesture to language (2017-2022)

Like any language, the natural sign languages (henceforth: SLs) of deaf communities differ from each other in their grammars and lexicons. A growing number of studies indicates that SLs make use of the gestures of hearing speakers to build linguistic structure. This implies that variation and similarities in co-speech gesturing may lead to variation and similarities in the structure of (unrelated) SLs.

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Exploring new methods in comparing sign language corpora: analysing cross-linguistic variation in the lexicon 2017-2022

Between 2007 and 2014, four large video corpora of West African SLs have been compiled at Leiden University. Currently, measuring variation across corpora is complicated by the non-compatibility of the glosses used. ID gloss databases are set up separately for each SL corpus. The glosses draw from different spoken languages and that there is no one-to-one relation between glosses and the meaning(s) of the signs.

To enable cross-linguistic comparison of SL corpus data, new methods and tools need to be developed

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Language socialization in deaf families in Africa 2017-2018

Across cultures, parents help their children master the social and linguistic codes needed in adult life. Recent research on language socialization found important cross-cultural differences, pointing out the need for more diversity for a full understanding of this process.
Deaf communities form unique subcultures with their own language, distinct from the mainstream culture. This project is the first large-scale, cross-cultural comparison in this domain. Deaf and hearing researchers will chart the language socialization of children of deaf adults in five African countries, comparing a) responsiveness and reciprocity in interactions and b) language socialization. We will compile an annotated, searchable database that can serve other researchers too. The project will shed new light on cross-cultural patterns in language socialization. Furthermore, it will create awareness about the situation of deaf parents and their children, and provide new opportunities for the academic development of talented deaf people in Africa.

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COMING SOON: SUMMER SCHOOL LINGUISTICS with SL fieldwork course!…/pro…/language-documentation.html


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Teachers: Connie de Vos (Nijmegen), Victoria Nyst (Leiden), Nick Palfreyman (Islands) Introduction to sign linguistics and sign language fieldwork
Organizational support: Lotte Bijloo (Leiden), Felisa Jurado (Leiden)

This course provides a training in linguistic fieldwork on sign languages. The first week of the course will consist of an introduction into sign language fieldwork and exercises with tools for sign language annotation (ELAN, HamNoSys, FACS). The second week will be a hands-on training with a Deaf signer of Chinese Sign Language, with a focus on lexical typology. Since we are looking for funds to arrange for sign language interpretation, please indicate whether you need an interpreter. This course accommodates students with and without a background in sign language linguistics.