Tid: onsdag 29 maj 2013 kl. 15.00 - 17.00
Plats: C397, Österbergsalen, Södra huset, Frescati


Astrologers suggest that the Age of Aquarius heralds a “new age”, marked, in part by the development of electricity and computers. We might argue that the technological developments of the early 21st Century are facilitating a new age for sign language research.

While the description of signed languages is still a work in development, pre-21st Century descriptive work was typically predicated on small data sets, with few informants, and assumptions carried over from more dominant languages, spoken and signed. With the development of the ELAN programme, corpus development for signed languages became possible, and with this, linguists have been offered a new, “wide-angle” vantage point for exploring signed languages.

With the creation of the Signs of Ireland corpus (2004-7), Irish linguists are now mining the data set, and in addition to making headway with respect to our understanding of ISL structure (Thorvaldsdottir, 2010, 2013) and revisiting old assumptions about “what ISL does….”

This talk presents some of the assumptions that were held about Irish Sign Language that have been tested/ are in the process of testing against the data from the Signs of Ireland corpus, leading us to a richer understanding of the language.

Topics for consideration include:

  • Morphosyntactic patterns (e.g. adjective/noun relationships, giving rise to increased information about collocational patterns in ISL ) (Leeson and Saeed 2012)
  • Gendered signing – pervasiveness of male or female lexical forms, and diachronic change (Leeson and Grehan 2004, Leeson 2005, Leeson and Saeed 2012)
  • Form and function of mouthings and mouth gestures – gendered, generational (Fitzgerald (in prep), Mohr-Militzer 2011)
  • Influence of real world location on reference establishment and maintenance in ISL (Leeson et al. in preparation)
  • Discourse Structure and narrative indicators (Janzen, Leeson et al. 2012)


Lorraine Leeson is Professor of Deaf Studies and Director of the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College Dublin. Working primarily within a functional/ cognitive linguistics framework, Lorraine has worked on describing aspects of Irish Sign Language and set up the Signs of Ireland corpus project in 2004, which led to the publication of “Irish Sign Language: A Cognitive Linguistic Account” (with John I. Saeed) (Edinburgh University Press) in 2012. She has also published widely on issues relating to signed language interpreting. In 2012, she published and co-edited a volume with Myriam Vermeerbergen, “Working with the Deaf Community: Mental Health, Education and Interpreting” (Interesource Group Publishing Limited). In 2009, Lorraine was named a European Commission Language Ambassador for her work on Irish Sign Language.

Johanna Mesch