Project information

Project information in the research database Cristin


Signed languages are complete and independent languages. They can express all kinds of facts, opinions, and feelings, just like spoken languages. Norwegian Sign Language (NSL) is different from other sign languages around the world. For example, it cannot be understood by signers of British or German Sign Language.

Surprisingly, when sign language users with no shared language meet each other in international settings they are often able to communicate much easier than speakers of two different spoken languages. The grammatical use of “depiction” in sign languages may partially explain why this is possible.

Depiction require careful assessment of shared experiences and context 

Depiction is what we do when we form a telephone receiver with our hand and put it to our ear. Any person familiar with the concept of a telephone will understand something like: “I’ll call you”. Using depiction is an important part of following the rules of the language for NSL and other sign languages. Signers use depiction to communicate effectively and efficiently with each other. It takes adult learners of sign languages time and effort to use depictions idiomatically. Depictions require careful assessment of shared experiences and context. This is a skill which deaf people uniquely and automatically master.

Research areas

By focusing on the ways deaf Norwegian experience shapes sign language depiction in NSL we will investigate (1) how depicting signs are perceived and understood by signers of different sign languages, (2) in what contexts learning depicting signs is useful for deaf and hearing children, and (3) how depictions are used by deaf immigrants. We will also help prepare interpreters and other practitioners for interactions with the deaf communities and individuals they serve through a deeper understanding of (4) how hearing and deaf interpreters use depictions when interpreting for deaf immigrants, (5) how depictions are used in deaf-blind interpreting, and (6) whether skilled or novice sign language interpreters use depictions differently.

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Project description (RCN application)