This seminar series examines the daily life interactions between deaf and hearing people to identify ways in which people with different visual / gestural and auditory / oral experience of language communicate and understand each other.

Series convenors

Elisabetta Adami (PI, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies); James Simpson and Ruth Swanwick (Co-PIs, School of Education); Samantha Goodchild (Research Assistant, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies).

Project overview

The series will focus on daily life interactions between deaf and hearing people that present particular sensorial asymmetries. In particular it will ask:

  • How do deaf and hearing interactants communicate when they share limited (sign and / or spoken) linguistic resources?
  • What semiotic resources do they draw upon and what communicative strategies do they use?
  • What can we learn from their practices about not only deaf / hearing interaction, but also all human communication and how we use all available resources to make meaning?
  • How can the understanding of these practices be used to empower (1) deaf / hearing participants in their daily life encounters, and (2) people who live, work and communicate in multilingual/multicultural contexts?

The series will be the first in the UK to bring together deaf and hearing researchers of sign-language, multimodality, trans-languaging, and interpreting to develop new theoretical, trans-disciplinary approaches for the understanding of sign/spoken language communication.

We propose to shift the observational perspective onto sign / spoken language interaction. Instead of the traditional linguistic take, which looks at levels of proficiency in given ‘codes’ (either sign-language or speech), we will be looking at how deaf and hearing interactants use semiotic resources and communicative strategies to co-construct situated understanding beyond cultural and linguistic barriers, to fulfil their communicative needs in specific situations of daily life, in shops / streets, in families, at school, and in interpreter-mediated events.

The series will build a trans-disciplinary approach by integrating multimodality, sign and spoken language interaction, and studies on trans-languaging / multilingualism. To focus these perspectives and develop this approach in action, each seminar will involve close scrutiny of video-recorded data of sign/spoken language interactions among deaf/hearing children and adults in multilingual and cross-modal contexts.

This work will advance knowledge about sign/spoken language interaction in the first instance and, more broadly, about the multimodal nature of human communication. We envisage potential applications for education, interpreting and communication practices in deaf / hearing communities and multilingual/multicultural contexts more generally.

The series is a collaboration with Dr Annelies Kusters (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Christopher Stone (University of Wolverhampton) and Jessica Bradley (Leeds Trinity University).