Post about TISLR by Doctoral Candidate Carla Morris

The deadline to submit abstracts for posters or presentations for TISLR12 in Melbourne, Australia, is this weekend.

*** Update regarding submission deadline ***

From the SLLS facebook page

Hello everyone,

This is a third and final reminder about the deadline for abstracts for the TISLR 12 conference. It has been slightly revised to March 1, 23:59 Melbourne time (Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time, or AEDT). This is 11 hours ahead of GMT. The cut off for submissions to the EasyChair system has been set to this deadline.

We have extended the deadline slightly to take into account the time differences across the globe which mean that the final hours of February 28 (the previously announced deadline) in some parts of the world may be up to 21 hours (if, for example, you are in Hawaii) behind Melbourne time.

Thank you,
Chair, TISLR 12 Local Organising Committee


Australian Eastern Daylight Time is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time
For example:
2:39 AM Saturday, Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) is
10:39 AM Friday, Eastern Time (ET)

Some of you may be asking: What is TISLR???

TISLR stands for Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research. It has become the international conference in our field of sign language linguistics that encompasses all theoretical approaches – The unifying characteristic is our research of sign languages.

Currently, TISLR is held once every 3 years. The first one I attended was in 2010, at Purdue in Indiana.  The most recent (TISLR11) was in London in 2013, where myself and five of our classmates and two of our faculty members presented (!). This next one will be in Melbourne in 2016.

The first TISLR was held in Rochester, NY in 1986.

The second was hosted by our very own department and held here at Gallaudet in 1988. (TISLR2 Proceedings).

TISLR’s governing body is the Sign Language Linguistics Society (SLLS).

At TISLR, not only do sign language researchers from around the world have a chance to network and collaborate (and show off a little), SLLS also holds their General Meeting, wherein the hosting sites of upcoming TISLR’s are voted on – much like the competitive hosting process for the Olympic Games.

Following Melbourne next year, Hamburg is slated to host in 2019. Even if you only have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend it!  It’s an amazing experience.

– Carla Morris

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Brown Bag by Professor Shaw 3/2, 12-1 @SLCC Open Space, Ling Dept

Our second Brown Bag of Spring Semester will be this coming Monday (3/2). Dr. Shaw will be talking with us about language and power in legal interpreting contexts (see abstract below).

topic: Interpreting Decisions and Power: Legal Discourse or Legal Discord?
presenter: Dr. Risa Shaw
when: Monday, March 3rd, 12 to 1 pm
where: SLCC 3rd floor open area in linguistics department

Interpreting Decisions and Power: Legal Discourse or Legal Discord?

In Canada and the U.S. interpreting legal discourse and working in legal interactions is an area fraught with power imbalances between the agents of the judicial system and the Deaf persons who come in contact with them. This two-part qualitative study (survey and focus groups) included Deaf and non-deaf ASL-English interpreters from Canada and the U.S. We analyzed how interpreters who have worked in legal settings for the past 10-30 years make decisions about their work that may contribute to the power dynamics in this specialized area. Results indicate the effect of the intersections among power and privilege, interpreters’ sense of agency, conceptualization of the task of interpreting, and training. These intersections cut across the power dynamics of systemic power, power in the legal system, and one’s own personal and/or professional power and privilege, or lack thereof. Participants highlight the following: the importance of trust and the relationship among team members, especially between Deaf and non-deaf colleagues, awareness of one’s choices, recognition of the impact of one’s decisions, and willingness to changes one’s practices. Additional themes emerged regarding definitions of qualifications, job requirements, working conditions, preparation strategies and practices, and the need for ongoing specialized training. Finally, the study has implications for interpreter educators and interpreters who work in legal settings. While this study draws on data from legal settings, results are applicable to multiple contexts and settings.

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Brown Bag by graduate student Amelia Becker 2/23 12-1 @SLCC Open Space, Ling Dept

Amelia Becker will be this semester’s first Brown Bag presenter. She will be talking with us about about some important conceptual issues raised at the intersection of phonetics, phonology, and cognition in signed languages (see abstract below).

topic: Sign Language Phonetic Annotation as a Tool in Cognitive Linguistics
presenter: Amelia Becker
when: Monday, February 23rd, 12 to 1 pm
where: SLCC 3rd floor open area in linguistics department


This paper seeks to determine ways in which Sign Language Phonetic Annotation (SLPA; Johnson & Liddell, 2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c) is an appropriate tool for Cognitive linguistics. I posit a theory of Cognitive phonetics and phonology based upon Langacker’s (2008) Content Requirement and drawing from Bybee’s (2003) and Armstrong, Stokoe, and Wilcox’s (1995) insights. I then evaluate SLPA against this rough framework, firstly concluding that the phonological level of Johnson and Liddell’s (2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c) suggestions are in opposition to such a theory due to their assumptions of underlying and surface forms which follow a Generative model of rule-governed operations. Next, however, I examine the phonetic level of analysis offered by SLPA (which is, in fact, the bulk of the focus of the articles proposing it) and demonstrate that a phonetic description of signed languages is indeed useful. Whereas previous suggestions for signed language phonology, such as Brentari’s (1998) Prosodic Model, have provided phonological but not phonetic analysis, SLPA serves as a tool for a phonetic representation of the configuration of signs, and Johnson and Liddell (2010) convincingly demonstrate the inadequacy of purely “emic” models for describing differences both between distinct signs and between the same sign’s form in different phonological contexts. Some have argued (Armstrong et al., 1995; Stokoe, 2001) that, in contrast to spoken language phonetics and phonology, an articulatory and sequential representation of signs is unnecessary due to differences in visual and auditory perception. To support Johnson and Liddell’s (2010) argument for phonetic description, then, I demonstrate how SLPA can reveal articulatory differences between a sign’s form in American Sign Language and its apparently borrowed form in Haitian Sign Language, differences which are indeed perceivable by native and fluent signers, thus necessitating the employment of phonetic detail in the description of perceptual phenomena, regardless of the predictability of certain features.
I then examine SLPA in light of Armstrong et al.’s (1995) proposal to view all language production – whether signed or spoken – as gesture. Brentari (1998) suggests “that the closer our analyses are to the phonetics, the more apparent the differences are between sign language and spoken language, and that the closer our analyses are to grammatical function, the more apparent the similarities become” (p. 3). I propose, however, that SLPA’s focus upon the muscular activities employed for signed language production provides a model for examining linguistic form in a way that can also inform spoken language linguistics: as physical activity commanded by the brain. Focusing on the brain’s trifold task of housing the language network and both commanding and perceiving language production regardless of modality makes room for precisely the unified view of all language production as gesture for which Armstrong et al. (1995) call.

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Brown Bag by Dr Anna Marie Trester 8/29 11-12 @SLCC 2300 A/B

event: We’re studying linguistics. What happens next?
presenter: Dr. Anna Marie Trester
when: Friday, August 29th, 11am to noon
where: SLCC 2300 A&B

Back by popular demand, Dr. Anna Marie Trester, of the Georgetown University MA in Linguistics Language and Communication program and now Associate at the FrameWorks Institute, presents a lively lecture and discussion about considering broad career options from academic fields.

From her own experience in and beyond academic linguistics, Dr. Trester will share tips and strategies for changing the ways we think and talk about academic fields, including real, serious, fun answers to the age-old question “But seriously, what can you do with that?”

Come learn about how linguistics applies to various and numerous fields through real examples and success stories of the people who are living it. And apply Dr. Trester’s approach to reconceptualizing the job search as a journey to your field of choice, reframing from “the dream job” to “what would you do if you could do anything?”

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Welcome to newest faculty member, Dr. Terra Edwards!

The Linguistics Department at Gallaudet is honored to welcome its newest faculty member, Dr. Terra Edwards.

This is a picture of Terra Edwards set against the background of a brick wall.

Terra Edwards

As her bio below states, she brings to our department an anthropologist’s perspective on language, which we have missed having since Bob Johnson’s retirement a few years ago. Her research interests also support the theoretical, applied, and community-engagement aspects of our department’s mission in unique ways.

Terra Edwards is a linguistic anthropologist, who has recently completed her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research, broadly construed, is concerned with the interactional and social foundations of language and language use. For the past 16 years, she has pursued this interest in the Seattle DeafBlind community. She earned a BA from the Evergreen State College in translation and interpretation and an MA from the University of Texas at Austin in Anthropology. Her dissertation examines a grammatical divergence between Visual American Sign Language (VASL) and Tactile American Sign Language (TASL), triggered by the recent pro-tactile movement. She plans to continue studying language structure and language use among DeafBlind people in Seattle and elsewhere.

For more information, visit her GU profile page: or Academia page:

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ASL around the world: A Trinidadian, an Englishman, a Nigerian and a Guyanese walk into a park in Guyana…


Excellent response to “What I think about a Peace Corps posting…”. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, I often ran into Deaf Kenyans who told me that they wanted to learn more ASL. I would tell them that they already had a language that worked just as well – KSL (Kenyan Sign Language). But they said that “ASL was the language of Deaf people who went to college.” Who was I to argue with that? I had never thought that ASL would become like English, a language of prestige, one to be used in trade and such. Ben Braithwaithe raises this very point much more eloquently than I just did. – Julie A. Hochgesang

Originally posted on Language Blag:

In 2012, I made the short trip to Guyana to meet with members of the Deaf community in the capital, Georgetown, to see some of the work being done by a group then called Deaf in Guyana, now called the Deaf Association of Guyana (DAG), and to do some initial linguistic research. Walking through Georgetown’s beautiful botanical gardens one afternoon, a group of us happened to meet a hearing Nigerian man who had gone to a deaf school as a child in Nigeria (his father was the principal, I think). We chatted together for a while as we waited for a rain shower to pass. We talked about the differences between our countries, about languages and religions. As we talked — a Nigerian, an Englishman, two Trinidadians and one Guyanese, some hearing, some Deaf — the language we used was American Sign Language.

fieldwork guyana

I thought of that trip as I read Julie Hochgesang’s…

View original 1,003 more words

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Follow-up post for “What I think about A Peace Corps Posting…” by Deaf RPCV Allen Neece

Allen Neece, who has written the follow-up post below, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, Zambia, and Guyana, 2007-2010. He taught for two years at a residential primary school in Kenya, was an advisor to the Zambia National Association of the Deaf in Lusaka, and in Guyana as a Response Volunteer, he worked as a Deaf Education Specialist within the Ministry of Education. He subsequently worked with Voluntary Services Overseas from 2011-2012 as a capacity advisor with the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf in Kigali. He hasn’t earned a salary since 2007.


Allen Neece at Gallaudet University by his picture in the Peace Corps exhibit

Here’s some intelligence I can share, from what I know of the particular situation in Guyana.
The Deaf Association of Guyana (DAG) (formerly known as Deaf In Guyana, DIG) is run by an elderly white Dutch woman who can barely sign herself. My observations and interactions with her in 2011 left me with the distinct impression that DIG/DAG was nothing more than an after school social club for Deaf youth in Georgetown. Her intentions are certainly noble, she has devoted much of her time and energy to providing opportunities for Deaf youth but they largely stem to issues pertaining to leisure and recreation.
Deaf education in Georgetown/Guyana makes Kenya seem positively stratospheric by comparison. The majority of Deaf people in Guyana are essentially illiterate in both English and sign language. Consequently, they have no ability to organize, network, and advocate effectively. I think DIG/DAG was started to address this, with the ostensible goal of nurturing grassroots advocacy. 
Your reference to the TOR principles by Harris, et al., is spot on. This hasn’t happened in this particular issue of DAG requesting an ASL instructor from Peace Corps. If the Deaf community was truly involved in this request, I find it preposterous they would have requested an ASL instructor. I met Deaf Guyanese who were clearly cognizant of the need for self-determination and empowerment in addressing the need for research into the native sign languages of Guyana (there seem to be regional dialects as well, oriented by specific towns). They may not have been afforded formal education but they’re certainly capable of engaging in a dialectical process concerning ASL and GSL.
There are no professional sign language interpreters in Guyana. However, there is a hearing couple who runs an evangelical church in Georgetown. The pastor is quite skilled in ASL and often works as a SLI in Georgetown for meetings. Although he has his own motives pertaining evangelicalism of the Deaf community, he’s been around long enough to know that there are several nascent strains of GSL percolating around the country and he wholeheartedly supports the need for further awareness and research. When participating in meetings concerning special education issues, he and I both stressed the need for further research on GSL. Unfortunately, like Kenya, Deaf education doesn’t register on the radar at the MOE and reforms occur glacially, if at all. I suggested that if it wasn’t feasible to bring SL linguists from the States, they could still find capable linguists from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), perhaps such as the University of the West Indies in Kingston. 
I was invited to Georgetown to ostensibly train teachers in Deaf ed at the Cyril Potter of Education but for a number of reasons, it didn’t happen. I specifically told Peace Corps Guyana that unless it could be guaranteed that a future Response volunteer could teach at the college, it would be unwise to replace me with a new volunteer. They didn’t listen and to my irritation, they continued for another year to recruit a new volunteer before they finally dropped it.
This ASL instructor assignment is not the first time DAG has requested a volunteer. A RPCV from Deaf Ed Kenya was there 2012-2013 and she had issues, too, with DAG and ended up having to modify her assignment so she could stay on in another capacity. I’m trying to track her down and glean more intelligence.
My take is that there simply needs to be better vetting and evaluation of requests for Volunteers from host country nationals by PC posts, both overseas and in D.C., as well as a need for better awareness of issues pertaining to disability and language. I get the feeling that PC Response in Guyana may just be filling up empty slots to justify funding purposes without adequately scrutinizing the true rationale for placements.
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