Research & Scholarly Achievement
at Gallaudet University

Linguistics

The Department of Linguistics is heavily dependent on research for both learning and teaching because sign language linguistics is a field that has so much more to discover. The ongoing, innovative research carried out by the linguistics faculty and graduate students is contributing substantially to what is known about the structure and use of sign languages.


Evidence of Lexical Variation in the Philadelphia Deaf Community

ID: 3333
Status: Completed
Start date: December 2016
End Date: May 2017

Description

This project is a subset of a larger language documentation project which aims to examine lexical variation in ASL as exhibited by the Philadelphia, Pa. Deaf community. This community has shown that they value their variety and they have requested it be preserved before it dies out. The aim of this study is to identify what distinguishes their variety from other varieties. To do this, we will follow ASL-LEX’s methodology for subjective frequency ratings. Early and native signers from Philadelphia and those with no relation to the city will rate signs based on how often they feel these signs appear in everyday conversation. They will also answer questions about their familiarity with the signs. Half of the signs included in the survey are deemed to be a lexical variation by the Philadelphia Deaf community and half are not. We hope to find a significant difference between the ratings of the two groups, indicating that Philadelphia has distinct lexical variation. These results will guide the larger project on what to document and how to proceed in identifying further features of a distinct variety.

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The Grammatical Incorporation of Pointing in Pro-Tactile American Sign Language at Gallaudet

ID: 3295
Status: Completed
Start date: November 2016
End Date: September 2017

Description

The broad aim of this research is to understand how routine patterns in embodied interaction can influence the grammatical organization of language. In order to achieve this aim, we will focus on the ways that pointing is incorporated into the grammar of Pro-Tactile American Sign Language (PTASL) among DeafBlind people at Gallaudet University over a three-year period. The pro-tactile movement, which began in Seattle, Wash. in 2007, is based on the idea that all human activity can be realized via touch--that hearing and vision are not necessary for such things as co-presence, navigation, social interaction, and communication. One of the implications of this view is that DeafBlind people no longer need to rely on sighted interpreters to communicate in and about their environment. Instead, they can develop practices for communicating directly with other people about the dimensions of the world that are knowable through kinesthetic, tactile, olfactory, and thermal senses. Building on prior work in the Seattle DeafBlind community and informed by research about pointing and deictic systems in both spoken and signed languages, we predict that the pro-tactile movement will lead DeafBlind people at Gallaudet to point to objects and events in the immediate environment in new ways, and that pointing will be integrated with the grammar to yield linguistic forms, patterns, and processes that are not found in American Sign Language. This project promises to generate new knowledge about pointing in tactile signed languages, and in doing so, provide insights about how embodied interaction can influence language structure.

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Interpreting Constructed Dialogue from ASL-to-English Project

ID: 3340
Status: Completed
Start date: October 2016
End Date: September 2017

Description

I am proposing a short, linguistic study of the strategies interpreters utilize when interpreting American Sign Language (ASL) to spoken English. The interpreting process is a unique, linguistic challenge in that it requires interpreters to rapidly determine the meaning encoded in the source language and decide how to effectively encode a meaning as equivalent as possible in the target language. Languages have specifics strategies that are used for encoding and presenting informational content. While some languages rely on completely different strategies to encode information, some languages utilize similar strategies that vary only in the interactive situations they occur in, the frequency of usage, and the impact. This proposed study aims to examine the strategies used for handling the utilizations difference of languages in interpreting situations by examining ASL-to-English interpretation of Constructed Dialogue (CD). This study will yield a modest body of data I can analyze for linguistic frequency and patterns of usage. The analysis of this data will serve as a foundation for future studies on interpreting CD into English that could have an impact on interpreting education and education for ASL as a second language.

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L2 Acquisition of ASL in M1 and M2 Contexts.

ID: 3435
Status: Ongoing
Start date: September 2015

Description

We are proposing a longitudinal study of the acquisition of ASL as a second language, including both hearing (M1) and Deaf (M2) learners. There has recently been a surge in research interest on the acquisition of sign language as a second language. However, the data from recent publications come from sign<naïve subjects who are not actually learning a sign language. Furthermore, little research exists on L2 sign acquisition by Deaf learners who have already acquired an L1 sign language. The proposed study follows actual M1 and M2 L2 learners before and after their first intensive ASL class, documenting their lexical, phonological, and syntactic development at the very beginning stages of L2 acquisition of ASL. We will run a small battery of linguistic tests on students just prior to and at the end of 2< week summer Professional Studies courses held at Gallaudet. This will yield a modest body of data from which we can test claims from the recent L2 (sign and spoken) literature, and eventually compare against sign acquisition patterns from M1L2 learners, to be collected the following summer. Analysis of these data will allow exploration of the role of modality in L2 learning for both experienced and inexperienced signers, and pedagogical implications for different types of learners (M1F vs. M2; spoken language L2 vs. sign language L2).

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Language Discrimination of Unknown Sign Languages

ID: 3398
Status: Completed
Start date: April 2017
End Date: September 2017

Description

In this project, Deaf ASL users will watch videos of two unknown sign languages to test their ability to distinguish between the two languages. The purpose of this experiment is to determine what cues allow individuals to identify different sign languages. Current research is investigating whether infants can identify the differences between sign languages that are unknown to them. To accurately understand and interpret these results, it is critical to establish how sign languages are distinguishable in general. If sign language discrimination in adults depends on early language experience with sign language, then we can conclude that sensitivity to language differences is contingent on early experience. If discrimination is very difficult for adults regardless of experience, then we can conclude that language discrimination is more sensitive in infants than in adults, as is found in the literature on spoken language discrimination. Further, the project will test what characteristics adults use in making this determination by systematically blocking certain linguistic features during the task. In this manner, we will also be able to develop hypotheses about what linguistic characteristics are most salient to adults and what infants may attend to when first acquiring sign language.

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Sign Language Annotation, Archiving and Sharing (SLAASh)

ID: 2617
Status: Ongoing
Start date: September 2014
End Date: August 2019

Description

SLAASh focuses on the construction of infrastructure to support the archiving and distribution of sign language corpora, focusing upon previously collected longitudinal samples of the development of child ASL. It is also developing the ASL Signbank, an online resource to maintain ID glosses, unique identifiers for signs that enable machine-readability that also serves as a lexical database in which information is stored about each sign. ASL Signbank can be used to create a continually-updated ECV for ELAN (meaning that people who annotate ASL videos can use ASL Signbank and don't need to create their own).

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