WP1 - Language specific perceptions of lexically depicting signs
Language use is a real-time activity subject to cognitive constraints of attention and automatization that operates in the tug and pull to create understandable communicative acts with the least amount of effort possible. This struggle is reflected in a myriad of different ways intra-lingually as the grammar of any given language conventionalizes and changes over time.
One way to reduce the effort required for effective communication in inter-lingual situations where attentional demands are high and automatization is low because participants are operating without a fully shared linguistic system is to use behaviors that draw more strongly on non-linguistic and other temporally/physically salient experiences.
Depictions are likely to be particularly attractive because of their relative independence from conventionality and alignment with shared extra-linguistic experience. However, depictions may not always be truly divorced from entrenchment in cultural or linguistic systems as evidenced by attempts to quantify perceived iconicity of lexical items in signed languages. This becomes even more apparent when depictive accessibility is measured in tasks requiring online processing.
The current study will directly assess the cognitive effort needed to comprehend the motivation of depictive signs from other signed languages using a picture naming task. It may well be that certain concrete concepts are processed as similarly depictive across signed languages, but abstract concepts are not. If so, this would indicate these concepts do indeed provide an effort reducing strategy for creating understanding in interlingual contexts where participants are native sign language users.
WP 2 - Depiction as a tool for language learning and language development
Tegnspråk Depict WP2 Inger Birgitte Torbjørnsen
- Meghan Matovic–Noddeland (author)
- Siv Hillesøy (Statped)
Sign supported speech (SSS) is a type of sign language-based support for individuals with special needs. Recently this tool has been used in kindergarten for language development. Anecdotally, children learn and retain both concrete and abstract words in NSL more easily using SSS. Depiction could be a strong contributing factor.
The research project “Use of signs for all children in kindergarten” shows that 57 percent of the kindergartens in Hordaland county are using signs in kindergarten. Teachers report children can use visual language to express themselves around the same time as they begin to speak, as has been suggested previously. Since in Norway children start pre-school well before they have developed a spoken language beyond one-word sentences, the teachers emphasize that use of signs is especially helpful for the youngest children and the immigrant children in the kindergarten.
The use of signs in kindergarten has received limited attention in systematic studies. There has been work done on baby signs, but it has been argued that these programs may not manage to use the depiction from sign language to their full potential. While some investigations mention depiction as a possible explanation why SSS is helpful, none have studied this explicitly.
Signing may help preschoolers be more interested in learning new and abstract words through the humor and playfulness of iconicity. Another theory why SSS has been such a widespread tool in kindergartens could be that the inherent depictive aspects of signs helps the children understand/learn words more easily. SSS might bootstrap learning of abstract concepts from connections to concrete ones – a core property of metaphor in signed languages. There is evidence that this is the case for adult learners of ASL.
WP3 Depiction in communication with deaf female immigrants
Tegnspråk Depict WP3 Elisabeth Trengereid Olsen
- Lubna Mehdi (Signo)
The aim of this work package is to explore the barriers and opportunities deaf female immigrants experience in Norwegian society, through an investigation into their communication strategies with a focus on depiction.
Deaf women have had little to no focus in previous research studies, and research that solely investigates adult female deaf immigrants in Norway is lacking. Some studies do involve deaf immigrant women in mixed gender groups. This research focuses on inclusion into society and the system prepared to help. Language proficiency is important for deaf immigrants in a new society, and reduced access to language in general is an obstacle for independence. Language deprivation and lack of education in childhood influences how deaf immigrants cope in the Norwegian society. These aspects are also substantiated in international research.
A survey focusing on the life situation for deaf men and women in 93 countries found few countries deny deaf people access to education, government services or equal citizenship based on deafness alone. Thus, many deaf people experience discrimination, particularly in developing nations, and are not able to enjoy even basic human rights.
Signed languages are national like spoken languages, and many deaf female immigrants do not know NSL upon arrival in Norway. General language deprivation in childhood can also aggravate the communication situations in a new country. In such cases,
International Signs (IS) can be used to establish interaction with deaf immigrants. IS, though not a national sign language, is used as a communication method in these situations – consisting of depictive and visual elements from different national signed languages. Depiction is a natural part of IS and the degree to which shared experience governs the affordance of depicting utterances and language constructions, is an open question.
Deaf women may have had limited opportunities to interact with people outside of restricted environments prior to arriving in Norway, and therefore limited experience with co-constructing the intersubjectivity – shared understandings and experiences – needed to successfully deploy culturally appropriate depictions. It may also be that the universal nature of depictions is sufficient to be understood without shared cultural experience or that the experience of being deaf trumps cultural differences.
WP4 - Deaf interpreters’ depicting when creating intersubjectivity
Tegnspråk Depict WP4 Gro Hege Saltnes Urdal
Elisabet Tiselius (Stockholm University)
- Lori Whynot (Northeastern University)
- Christopher Tester (Gallaudet University)
This workpackage explores how depiction is used in meetings involving deaf immigrants and deaf sign language interpreters.
DIs employ a greater number of utterances using depiction than the non-deaf interpreters. We assume that depicting is central for creating intersubjectivity in communication where the participants and interpreters do not share a language.
In this WP we will explore how depicting is used when creating intersubjectivity in an interpreted dialogue. The deaf interpreters and the deaf immigrants do not share culture, nor do they have a common sign language. Hence the interpreter must create a common ground for communication, using traits from international signs. Depiction when creating intersubjectivity between a deaf interpreter and a deaf immigrant has not been previously described.
The role of a deaf interpreter (DI) is often described as the role of a language or culture broker. It does not suffice to know sign language and having a hearing loss to be a DI.
Deaf Extralinguistic Knowledge (DELK) is a concept that can help explicate competencies DIs may possess. DELK entails formative experiences of exposure to sign language through life-long interactions with deaf family members, deaf peers within the education system, and deaf people in the community. Furthermore, it takes early experiences of interpreting within the deaf community, personal experiences of discrimination, oppression, and what it is like not to have access to communication. Given the DELK competencies, the DIs are ascribed a special responsibility for ensuring the deaf clients’ comprehension in a team of deaf and hearing interpreters.
WP5 - Depiction in deafblind interpreting
- Johanna Mesch (Stockholm University)
Depiction has been found in encounters between deafblind people using tactile sign, and it is documented that they use different strategies when utilizing depiction compared to sighted signers. Deafblind signers place signs in different directions and distances, and in this process, they also use the other interlocutor’s hand or body. These utterances are co-constructed and “illustrate meaning construction during emerging, embodied discourse” (Mesch et al., 2015, p. 261). Recruiting the interactant’s hand and producing a depicting blend, can be referred to as co-formed depicting signs. Both depictive and indexical behavior are strongly dependent on the intersubjective co-construction of shared meaning in tactile sign language, perhaps more than descriptive behaviors. This emphasizes the necessity of examining language in interaction when attempting to explore depiction used between deafblind individuals. According to Dingemanse (2015, p. 950), “to interpret depictions, we imagine what it is like to see the thing depicted.”
This WP will also investigate how this is done when interpreting for deafblind individuals. As there is a lack of research investigating this topic, this WP will contribute knowledge useful for interpreters and interpreter educators, enhancing their metalinguistic competence. It will also strengthen the interpreting profession by portraying the tasks of a deafblind interpreter and emphasizing the place of depicting when communicating with deafblind individuals.
Mesch, J., Raanes, E., & Ferrara, L. (2015). Co-forming real space blends in tactile signed language dialogues. Cognitive Linguistics, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2014-0066
Dingemanse, M., Blasi, D. E., Lupyan, G., Christiansen, M. H., & Monaghan, P. (2015). Arbitrariness, Iconicity, and Systematicity in Language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(10), 603–615. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.013
WP6 - Differences in depicting between experienced and inexperienced sign language interpreters
Elisabet Tiselius (Stockholm University)
Christopher Stone (University of Bristol)
Experience is a strong factor in interpreting performance. Over time interpreters develop and refine interpreting strategies, which often cannot be fully internalized without experience despite being taught in interpreting programs. Furthermore, most interpreters also develop their linguistic competencies over time.
This work package aims to investigate whether depiction is developed over time by active interpreters. Understanding if and how depictive strategies develop over time will inform interpreter training on how to teach depiction to future sign language interpreters. It will also contribute to understanding the concept of depiction in terms of a communication tool.