A canvas in space: Partitioning of the signing space for referential purposes in Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT)

Grant type: NWO VENI grant
PI: Marloes Oomen
Year: 2022-2026
Summary: In sign language conversations, people, animals, and things can be associated with locations in space. This makes the relation between different expressions referring to the same entity directly visible: they are articulated at or point toward the same location in space. Traditionally, it was assumed that such locations could be randomly set up anywhere in the signing space, but more recent work appears to suggest otherwise. In this project, I identify the unwritten rules that signers of Sign Language of the Netherlands apply when picking out spatial locations to represent referents. These new insights will be captured in a three-dimensional model which maps all major spatial partitionings to referent functions.

Infrastructure for SSH research on Sign Language of the Netherlands

Grant type: Platform Digital Infrastructures for the Social Sciences and the Humanities
Main applicants: Onno Crasborn, Floris Roelofsen
Coordinator until July 2023: Onno Crasborn
Coordinators from July 2023: Marloes Oomen, Floris Roelofsen
Project partners: Roland Pfau (Amsterdam), Connie de Vos (Tilburg), Saskia Damen (Groningen), Martha Larson (Nijmegen), Victoria Nyst (Leiden)
Year: 2022-2025
Summary: This project will contribute to the digital infrastructure that is needed for SSH researchers to investigate Sign Language of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal, NGT). The project focuses on (i) a digital NGT lexicon with semantic and phonetic information, (ii) NGT corpora of adult language use as well as interactions between adults and children, and (iii) software for machine-supported annotation, using novel AI technologies.

Questions in sign language

Grant type: NWO VICI grant
PI: Floris Roelofsen
Team: Marloes Oomen (Postdoc), Raquel Veiga Busto (Postdoc), Lyke Esselink (PhD), Tobias de Ronde (RA), Marijke Scheffener (RA)
Year: 2021-2026
Summary: The language barrier between deaf and hearing people hinders smooth communication and leads to social inequality and exclusion. This project investigates the form and interpretation of questions in sign languages, and applies the obtained insights to develop a translation tool to assist hearing parents of deaf children in learning sign language, as well as training sessions for sign language interpreters.

The emergence of complex syntactic structures in Russian Sign Language and Sign Language of the Netherlands

Grant type: NWO PhDs in the Humanities programme
Project website: click here
PhD Researcher: Evgeniia (Jenia) Khristoforova
Supervisors: Roland Pfau, Enoch Aboh
Year: 2020-2024
Summary: This research investigates the development of complex sentences in Russian Sign Language and Sign Language of the Netherlands. In the first phase of the project, we provide a detailed description of complementation and relativization in these languages using a variety of methods (corpus study, elicitation tasks, and grammaticality judgments). In the second phase, we integrate several theoretical approaches to explain the development of these construction types. The outcomes of this research will further our understanding of the emergence of complexity in human language, while shedding new light on modality-specific patterns.

Communication between healthcare professionals and deaf patients in times of COVID-19

Grant type: ZonMW COVID-19 grant
Project website: click here (password protected, email us to request access)
Consortium: SignLab Amsterdam, Amsterdam Medical Centre, Wat Telt!
Years: 2020-2021
Summary: In times of COVID-19, communication between healthcare professionals and deaf patients is even more challenging than it usually is. Facemasks are mandatory in many settings, making lipreading impossible, and restrictions can limit access to sign language interpreters. To help resolve this issue a tool was developed for translating questions and statements that are common in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 from Dutch to Sign Language of the Netherlands. Translations are displayed by means of videos and animated avatars.

Morphological reduplication in Sign Language of the Netherlands: A typological and theoretical perspective

Grant type: NWO PhDs in the Humanities programme
Project website: click here
PhD Researcher: Cindy van Boven
Supervisors: Roland Pfau, Silke Hamann
Year: 2019-2023
Summary: Reduplication is a common word formation process in both spoken and sign language. Under reduplication, a (part of a) word stem is repeated. This study will offer the first comprehensive account of reduplication in Sign Language of the Netherlands. The study will describe the functions of and restrictions on reduplication of both nouns and verbs. Beyond description, the study will offer a typological and theoretical perspective on the phenomenon. First, results will be compared to earlier findings from both sign and spoken languages. Second, the patterns will be analyzed within a well-established linguistic framework, namely Optimality Theory.

: signlab.amsterdam@gmail.com