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Designed by: Shani Yules, Computing Division, University of Haifa

Research Projects

Current Research

Al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language:  Emergence of grammar in a new sign language
Prosody
Diachronic development of Israeli Sign Language

Past Research

Verb agreement
Morphology

 

 

 

Current Research

Al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language

A major project of The Sign Language Research Lab is the investigation of a new and isolated sign language that arose in a Bedouin village located in Israel. Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) offers investigators Wendy Sandler (UHaifa), Carol Padden (UCSD/CRL), Irit Meir (UHaifa), and Mark Aronoff (SUNY-Stony Brook) a rare opportunity to trace the emergence of a language almost from the beginning, and to discover its essential ingredients. The project, conducted in cooperation with the Center for Research in Language of UCSD, is documenting and analyzing the language, and comparing its development across generations of signers. Working together with people from the village, the team is also creating a dictionary of Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language. For more on this project, including links to research papers, click here.
 

 

Prosody

 

The investigation of prosody in Israeli Sign Language by Wendy Sandler and her colleagues demonstrates that sign languages have comparable prosodic systems to those of spoken languages, although the phonetic medium is completely different.  Sandlers work with Marina Nespor presents evidence for prosodic constituents in ISL with particular phonetic correlates and associated phonological processes.  Facial expression in sign language

(dubbed superarticulation in this work) plays a role similar to that of intonation in spoken language, and its patterning in the language are a major focus of this project. Taken together with the similarities, interesting formal differences between the intonation of spoken language and the superarticulation of sign language are offering the researchers a new perspective on the relation between the phonetic basis of language, its phonological organization, and its communicative content. 

Diachronic Development of Israeli Sign Language

The historical development of Israeli Sign Language (ISL), from its earliest days to the present,is the focus of this research project, conducted by Irit Meir. Since ISL is a young language, having come into existence as the local Deaf community coalesced,

beginning about 70 years ago, it provides a natural laboratory for investigating language formation and language change.  The project is systematically investigating the language of four generations of signers, each of which contributed to the development of the full contemporary system.  Examining the course of development of specific structures in this language is expected to shed light on the ways in which a linguistic system comes into existence, and how it develops as the language matures.

 

 

Past Research

 

Verb agreement

 

The verb agreement study, Irit Meir's doctoral project, addresses two longstanding puzzles concerning the nature of verb agreement in sign languages in general, by looking closely at one particular sign language, Israeli Sign Language. The first puzzle is presented by the diverse agreement patterns of verbs in ISL, and the need to find a satisfactory explanation for them. The second puzzle is the theoretical one, determining whether general linguistic

theory can encompass a system that is grammatical, but different in some ways from verb agreement in spoken languages.  By applying a particular componential analysis of verbs in ISL, a model is developed which can predict the agreement pattern of each verb in the language, and at the same time can pinpoint the similarities and differences between the spatial predicates of ISL (and sign languages generally) and the auxiliary and verb systems of spoken languages.

 

A model of sign language morphology: the effects of modality and of language age.

A research project conducted by Wendy Sandler and Mark Aronoff focuses on the sequential affixal morphology of both Israeli and American sign languages.  Taken together with Irit Meirs verb agreement work, this project led to the development of a theory of sign language morphology that aims to accounts for both the widespread sign language-typical simultaneous morphology, and sign language specific sequential

kind that is rare in sign languages.  Properties of the former are attributed to modality, and of the latter to the youth of sign languages, identifying interesting grounds for comparison with creole languages.

The research described on this web page has been supported by The Israel Science Foundation, The United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and The National Institute on Deafness and other communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health.