The working title of Safar's thesis is What's your sign for TORTILLA? A comparative study of Yucatec Maya Sign Languages. Mock opponent is Kate Mesh from Lund University

This Mock Defense will be held in English and will be interpreted into Swedish Sign Language.

"In my PhD dissertation, I focus on the documentation and comparison of indigenous sign languages used by deaf and hearing people in Yucatec Maya villages. Over the course of my PhD project, I conducted fieldwork in four communities with a high incidence of deafness in the peninsula of Yucatán, Mexico: Chicán, Nohkop, Trascorral and Cepeda Peraza. Because deaf people born into these communities never had access to deaf schools or similar institutions, they developed their own local sign languages, which are independent from the national Mexican Sign Language, in order to communicate with each other and with their hearing relatives. All Yucatec Maya Sign Languages (YMSLs) are young languages, with three generations of deaf signers in Chicán and only one generation in Nohkop, Trascorral and Cepeda Peraza.
The sign languages in the four communities are historically unrelated, but they developed in the same geographic region and from a common cultural background (Yucatec Maya community structures, patterns of socialisation, cultural practices, ideologies and attitudes). They are in ongoing contact with the same spoken languages, namely Yucatec Maya and Spanish, and, most crucially, with the system of co-speech gestures used by hearing people. The shared cultural foundation and common gestural substrate give rise to striking similarities in lexicon and grammar between sign languages without any historical affiliation."

Read more: Safar_PhD abstract_Mock Defense(pdf) (89 Kb)

Josefina Safar on field work in Yucatán, Mexico. Photo by Alejandra Àlvarez
Josefina Safar(left) on field work in Yucatán, Mexico. Photo by Alejandra Àlvarez