Invited presenters

Virginia Volterra

Virginia Volterra, formerly Director of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies at CNR (1998-2001), is currently associated to the same Institute and Honorary Fellow of University College London. Throughout her career she collaborated widely with researchers across the world exploring language development in typically and atypically developing children, providing major insight on the role of gesture in early language acquisition and in the evolution of human language. She pioneered sign language research in Italy.

A new description of Italian Sign Language after 30 years of research  
In my talk I will describe the main differences among the first description we provided of Italian Sign Language (LIS) in 1987, and the new description published in 2019. I will try to explain the reasons for these changes in highlighting the most important differences between the old and new model. It is now our view that the semiotic properties and structural characteristics of sign languages ​​have contributed to a growing recognition of similar aspects of spoken languages.
The talk will focus on some major areas especially important today for both signed and spoken language research, including the following:
The view of language as a form of action and the continuum from action to gesture to language A revision of the traditional concept of dual patterning The recognition of iconicity at all linguistic levels and in major linguistic activities The consideration of more diverse language typologies The increased awareness that the community of language users as being an essential aspect in the description and assessment of languages in all modalities.  
For each of the above areas, I will contrast newer with older perspectives and also describe the ways in which both signed and spoken language researchers seem to be moving together on these issues, especially in revising the traditional separation between linguistic and non-linguistic elements and including gesture as part of the language.

Brigitte Garcia and Marianne Sallandre

Brigitte Garcia is a Professor of Linguistics at the University Paris 8 and head of the Sign Languages and Gestuality team at the linguistics laboratory Structures Formelles du Langage (Paris 8 & CNRS). She specializes in the linguistics of French Sign Language (LSF) and of other sign languages. She has been in charge of the Master's degree in LSF Interpreting since 2006, and is currently co-head of the BA in LSF teaching. She obtained her habilitation thesis (French accreditation to supervise PhD research) in 2010. Prof. Garcia has led numerous national research projects on LSF, in particular two projects funded by the National French Research Agency (ANR): the multidisciplinary LS-Script project (2005-2007) and the Creagest project (2007-2012), in which she supervised the gathering of a corpus of more than 100 hours of LSF dialogues between Deaf adults from all over France. She is currently coordinator of the International Research Network EURASIGN (2018-2022) funded by the CNRS, that includes 10 European partners.
Her research interests focus on the epistemological study of sign language linguistics and, among other themes, on the internal structure of signs, the morphosemantic structure of the SL lexicon, and the interrelationships between conventional and non-conventional units in SL discourse.
Brigitte Garcia maintains close relations with organizations and institutions related to the education of Deaf people and the transmission of their language. She is regularly requested by the Ministry of National Education to participate in expert committees working to implement texts relating to deaf education.

Marie-Anne Sallandre is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Paris 8, member of the Structures Formelles du Langage laboratory at the CNRS in Paris. She specialises in the analysis of French Sign Language (LSF), and of other sign languages, which she studies from a comparative typological perspective.
Sallandre completed her PhD dissertation in 2003, under the direction of Christian Cuxac, and obtained her habilitation thesis (French accreditation to supervise PhD research) in 2014. Her aim, in both these dissertations and publications, has been to develop a “grammar of iconicity” for SLs in the Semiological Approach framework.
Sallandre is currently the co-head of two BA in LSF teaching; she teaches courses both to hearing and Deaf students (BA and MA programs, for future teachers, interpreters and researchers).
Her initial domain of research is iconicity in sign language discourse, focusing on transfer structures known as Highly Iconicity Structures (HIS). She has since expanded her domain of research to person and space, as well as acquisition of LSF by Deaf children.
Prof. Sallandre has contributed, with colleagues, to the creation of several corpora in LSF, some of which have been broadly used in France (e.g. LS-Colin Corpus, Creagest Corpus). She is also involved in the development of "good practices" in research on Deaf community and their languages (metadata and annotation).

What exactly does the « Semiological Approach » have to offer?
The aim of our talk is to allow a deeper understanding of our theoretical framework for the description of sign language (SL), the "Semiological Approach" (a.o. Cuxac 1999; Cuxac & Sallandre 2007; Garcia & Sallandre 2014), and to situate this approach in SL linguistics.
As a first step, we will describe the epistemological foundations of this approach, rooted on a grammar of iconicity. This model was developed based on a detailed analysis of French Sign Language (LSF) discourse corpora, from a functional and enunciative standpoint. We will clarify the meaning and key contribution of the concept of "enunciation" (Jakobson 1963) and highlight its direct link with the linguistic functions of eye gaze in SL. One key function of the eye gaze is to signal the semiological intent of the signer: intent to “say by showing” (using so-called transfer structures: gaze cut off from that of the addressee) or only “to say” (using so-called standard structures: gaze towards the addressee). We will demonstrate that an accurate understanding of the function of eye gaze, together with other non-manual components, requires taking into account a broader discursive context. Then, we will show how, depending on eye gaze patterns, the discourse moves back and forth between the two main types of structures and interweaves them to elaborate highly complex and very economical constructions.
As a second step, we will detail the so-called transfer structures in relation with the other units of SL, i.e. lexical units and pointings. Transfer structures, which stem from a structuring of iconicity, fall into three main types: transfers of size and shape, situational transfers (± classifier constructions/depicting signs) and personal transfers (± “role shifts”/“constructed actions” and “constructed dialogues”). However, a main point we wish to highlight is that transfer structures can not only be combined simultaneously with each other (e.g. double transfer, semi transfer, etc.) but also with other kinds of units. This results in highly compositional structures that embed lexical units, as well as pointings or gestures (e.g. in reported speech).
Finally, we will argue that this model, called "semiological" because it requires (for any language) a preliminary semiology of modality, provides a linguistic analysis of SLs.

Erin Wilkinson

Erin Wilkinson is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico. Her primary research interests are language typology, usage-based grammar, language change and variation, and corpus linguistics of signed languages. Her current studies in collaboration with other researchers explore what linguistic structures are re-structured over time in signed languages and what are possible factors that contribute to language change and variation in signed languages. She also collaborates with researchers to investigate bilingual cross-lexical activation in signing populations

 Changes in language ecology, discourse and grammar: A typological-functional analysis of embodied intersubjectivity in LIS
Erin Wilkinson
Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico
In this talk, I will discuss the idea how changes in the ecology of a signed language community and embodied intersubjectivity drive language change and variation in signed languages. Investigation of historical change in signed language grammar in an established, macro community has been mostly limited to grammaticalization of specific form/function mappings (Janzen & Shaffer 2008; Johnston et al, 2015, Pfau & Steinbach 2011, Wilcox & Shaffer 2006). It has been reported that established, macro communities are experiencing a transformation in social practices of maintaining their communities due primarily to changes in educational policies, which then triggered a large student enrolment decline at residential schools for the deaf (e.g. Johnston, 2004; Leeson, 2005). If deaf children were brought to residential schools to acquire a new language, then it was a place for them to gain and maintain friendships, find their partners to have families with, and for some, it becomes their eventual workplace. The knowledge these deaf individuals have gained their life experiences at their residential schools is also attained knowledge shared with their own peers who they have kept friends over their lifetimes that would be easily accessed and activated during their discourse. At first glance, this appears to be comparable to hearing peers who have shared academic and social experiences in macro spoken communities. However, it can be argued that deaf residential school students have more, and more sustained social ties to the same general peer group, sometimes lasting their entire childhoods. In addition, because students live on campus, the depth and intimacy of those social interactions tends to be greater. Finally, because school is often the first (and sometimes only) place students have access to language and communication, the bonds they feel may be stronger. Simply put, deaf adults who attend residential schools have enormous amounts of shared knowledge relative to their hearing peers. Given their shared conceptualization of numerous similar life experiences throughout their lives, two questions emerge: how does embodied intersubjectivity impact their signed language discourse and grammar? Second, it appears that historically their signed language grammar was partially driven by a high overlap of shared knowledge and conceptualization—but if there is a drop in the shared conceptualization among signers in their community, then how does this impact their signed language discourse and grammar?
Previous literature has demonstrated that language use and intersubjectivity shape discourse and grammar (Etelämäki 2016, Janzen & Shaffer 2008; 2013, Verhagen 2008). The degree of intersubjectivity depends on the degree of experience and knowledge that discourse partners share. The more intersubjectivity participants have, the higher context their communicative interactions tend to be. Simply put, because much information is shared, or known, discourse participants would not only generate less linguistic material but also evoke experientially rich content in their linguistic material. The evocation of shared conceptualization is found to be strengthened through the regularization of linguistic structures, which is a result of the embodied intersubjectivity. However, what happens if the ecology of a signed language changes to a point where the embodied intersubjectivity may have been evolved into a possible different variation of signed language grammar.
To investigate this new line of inquiry on the evolution of the embodied intersubjectivity, a typological-functional analysis will be adopted to explore as follows: if changes are taking place in the language ecology of established, macro signed language communities, then what changes will manifest in their signed language grammar? Data is based on two sets of interviews with Italian signers collected in 1989 and 2011, which were documented in a naturalistic environment. The older variation of LIS (Lingua Italiana dei Segni) is based on 1989 interviews with deaf seniors (age range: 58 to 73 years old) who all considered Rome as their primary residence, and they shared their personal narratives as students at a residential school in Rome. The newer variation of LIS is based on 2011 interviews with younger deaf signers in their thirties, who shared their life experiences building their own careers in Italy.
Etelämäki, Marja (2016). Introduction: Discourse, grammar and intersubjectivity. Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 39(2), 101-112.
Janzen, Terry and Barbara Shaffer (2013). The interpreter’s stance in intersubjective discourse. In Laurence Meurant, Aurélie Sinte, Myriam Vermeerbergen and Mieke Van Herreweghe (Eds.), Sign Language Research, Uses and Practices. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter/Ishara Press. 63-84.
Janzen, Terry and Barbara Shaffer (2008). Intersubjectivity in interpreted interactions. In Jordan Zlatev, Timothy Racine, Chris Sinha and Esa Iktonen (Eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 333–355.
 Johnston, Trevor (2004). Whither the Deaf Community? Population, Genetics and the Future of Australian Sign Language. American Annals of the Deaf. 148(5), 358-375.
Johnston, Trevor, Donovan Cresdee, Adam Schembri, and Bencie Woll (2015). Finish variation and grammaticalization in a signed language: How far down this well-trodden pathway is Auslan (Australian Sign Language)? Language Variation and Change, 27(1), 117-155. doi:10.1017/S0954394514000209.
Leeson, Lorraine (2005). “Vying with variation: Interpreting language contact, gender variation and generational difference in Ireland.” In Terry Janzen (Ed.), Topics in Signed Language Interpreting. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 251–292.
Pfau, Roland & Markus Steinbach (2011). Grammaticalization in sign language. In Bernd Heine & Heiko Narrog (Eds.), Handbook of grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 681–693.
Pinna, P., Rampelli, L., Rossini, P., Volterra, V. (1990) Written and unwritten records from a residential school for the deaf in Rome. Sign Language Studies, 67, 127-140.
Verhagen, Arie (2008). Intersubjectivity and the architecture of the language system. In Jordan Zlatev, Timothy P. Racine, Chris Sinha, Esa Itkonen (Eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 307-331.
Wilcox, Sherman & Barb Shaffer. 2006. Modality in ASL. In William Frawley (Ed.), The expression of modality, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 207–238.