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In our HANDS!Lab for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies, we run projects pertaining to sign language linguistics with a focus on Africa. In addition, we are running projects on sign language teaching, tactile signing, deaf people’s experiences with the legal system, and deaf history.

Two African deaf men signing when sitting outside on a wall

From Gesture to Language

This running project aims to find out whether variation and similarities in co-speech gesturing lead to variation and similarities in the structure of (unrelated) sign languages by comparing six unrelated sign languages in West Africa. Further, size and shape usage in two varieties of ASL will be studied. Read more...

African mother and child signing

Language socialization in deaf families in Africa

During this project, deaf and hearing researchers mapped the language socialization of children of deaf adults in five African countries, comparing interactions and language socialization. In this way, a light was shed on cross-cultural patterns in language socialization. Read more...

Group of deaf signers

The role of hearing signers in the development of channel specific structures in sign languages of deaf communities

In this project, the hypothesis that language contact crucially impacts the development of spatial grammar and phonology was investigated. The project aimed to shed light on the interplay of two factors impacting sign language structure; channel-inherent tendencies and sociolinguistic features. Read more...

Drawing of name sign for Iran

Sign languages of Iran

The PhD project of Nargess Asghari focusses on an emerging village sign language in Iran. She explores the verbal system of this sign language and the influence of the surrounding spoken language because of the language contact. She also compares parts of the lexicon and verbal system of this village sign language with the lexicon and verbal system of the national sign language (Iranian Sign Language). Read more...

Two deaf boys sitting next to each other

Dutch Missionaries and Deaf Education in Africa

This traineeship project (study year 2019-2020) aimed to explore the influence of Dutch missionaries on deaf education in Africa between 1960 and 1990. By means of archival documentation, interviews and photographs is tried to map the earlier situation. Read more...

Emerging tactile International Sign in Europe

For her PhD project, Lisa van der Mark aims to create an International Tactile sign corpus in which interactions, interviews, assignments, and discussions will be recorded. By means of multiple analyses new lemmas and structures that arised can be detected. Another goal is to find appropriate research methods and explore ways to make research methods appropriate for tactile sign languages research. Read more...

Former Effatha students sign together about Effatha-gebaren


This traineeship project (study year 2018-2019), presented in written and signed Dutch, studied an endangered dialect of Nederlandse Gebarentaal. It emerged in the protestant deaf school Effatha. The project aimed to identifying, documenting and analyzing Effatha gebaren and its early history. Read more...

Two deaf man standing in an empty field/desert signing to each other

The emerging sign language of Guinea-Bissau (LGG)

In this PhD project. Mariana Martins focuses on the emerging sign language of Guinea-Bissau. Her research zooms in on the morphosyntactic structure of this sign language and hopes to gain more insight on how morphosyntactic structures in emerging sign languages are developed. Read more...

automated image analysis

Exploring new methods in comparing sign language corpora

For his PhD project, Manolis Fragkiadakis is developing a tool that innovates the analysis of signed languages. By using a collection of sign language corpora of four African sign languages, he explores ways in which automated image analysis can be used for semi-automated lemma generation. Read more...

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