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Signs Beyond Borders: Meaning-making across sign and spoken languages


The Leeds Seminar series ‘Signs Beyond Borders: Meaning-making across sign and spoken languages’ Sadler Seminar Series 2017-18. is led by Dr Elisabetta Adami in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies with Professor Ruth Swanwick and Dr James Simpson in the School of Education. The research assistant for the series is Samantha Goodchild.

The series brings together researchers from across disciplines to investigate innovative multimodal approaches to interactions in daily life, including in shops, in schools and in the home. It focuses on how deaf and hearing interactants draw from semiotic resources and strategies to making meaning across, through and beyond cultural and linguistic barriers.

Project overview
The series will focus on daily life interactions between deaf and hearing people that present particular sensorial asymmetries. In particular it will ask:
How do deaf and hearing interactants communicate when they share limited (sign and / or spoken) linguistic resources?
What semiotic resources do they draw upon and what communicative strategies do they use?
What can we learn from their practices about not only deaf / hearing interaction, but also all human communication and how we use all available resources to make meaning?

How can the understanding of these practices be used to empower (1) deaf / hearing participants in their daily life encounters, and (2) people who live, work and communicate in multilingual/multicultural contexts?
The series will be the first in the UK to bring together deaf and hearing researchers of sign-language, multimodality, trans-languaging, and interpreting to develop new theoretical, trans-disciplinary approaches for the understanding of sign/spoken language communication.

We propose to shift the observational perspective onto sign / spoken language interaction. Instead of the traditional linguistic take, which looks at levels of proficiency in given ‘codes’ (either sign-language or speech), we will be looking at how deaf and hearing interactants use semiotic resources and communicative strategies to co-construct situated understanding beyond cultural and linguistic barriers, to fulfil their communicative needs in specific situations of daily life, in shops / streets, in families, at school, and in interpreter-mediated events.

The series will build a trans-disciplinary approach by integrating multimodality, sign and spoken language interaction, and studies on trans-languaging / multilingualism. To focus these perspectives and develop this approach in action, each seminar will involve close scrutiny of video-recorded data of sign/spoken language interactions among deaf/hearing children and adults in multilingual and cross-modal contexts.
This work will advance knowledge about sign/spoken language interaction in the first instance and, more broadly, about the multimodal nature of human communication. We envisage potential applications for education, interpreting and communication practices in deaf / hearing communities and multilingual/multicultural contexts more generally.
The series is a collaboration with Dr Annelies Kusters (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Christopher Stone (University of Wolverhampton) and Jessica Bradley (Leeds Trinity University).