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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Language use in the Norwegian Deaf community: reflections of a signed language ecology

Alternative title: Språkbruk i det norske døvemiljøet: et dypdykk i norsk tegnspråkøkologi

Awarded: NOK 7.7 mill.

"Language use in the Norwegian Deaf community: reflections of a signed language ecology" This project will challenge traditional ideas about 'language' and 'grammar' through a series of studies on Norwegian Sign Language. Norwegian Sign Language is an indigenous, minority language in Norway, with an estimated 20,000 speakers (both deaf and hearing). The goal of the project is to research how deaf signers use this language, and how this use reflects the specific physical, social, historical and emerging characteristics of the Norwegian deaf community. Studies conducted during the project will investigate how deaf signers: 1) use all the languages that they know (e.g., Norwegian Sign Language, Norwegian, English, etc.), 2) use pointing and other types of signs to refer to people, objects, places, etc. out in the world, and 3) manipulate signs and grammar to show meanings visually. To complete these studies, the project will develop two Norwegian Sign Language resources: a corpus (which is a large, representative sample of the language), and a lexical database (which is a type of expanded dictionary). These long-term resources are a secondary aim of the project. They will enable further description and research on Norwegian Sign Language and are important for the deaf community and Norwegian society, more generally, because they work to document a part of Norway's linguistic heritage. The findings from this project will not only help us to understand how Norwegian Sign Language works, but will also help us to better understand how people, both deaf and hearing, are able to recruit various types of meaning-making strategies to communicate and interact with each other. In this way, the project will promote a perspective of language that accommodates the always changing interplay of complex visual, tactile, and verbal communication in everyday life.

Norwegian Sign Language, the natural signed language of the deaf community in Norway, is a minority language used by approximately 20,000 people (both deaf and hearing). Although recognized by the Norwegian government, attitudes about this language remain mixed, and research on this language has lagged behind that of other languages in Norway. This project responds by promoting Norwegian Sign Language through research into how signers use this language and how this use is a reflection of a deaf signed language ecology. Findings from this project will align with and contribute new knowledge to emerging trends that seek to synthesize our understanding of signed language discourse with what we know about the multimodal complexity of human interaction more generally. In addition, two language resources will be developed, a corpus and a lexical database, which will enable further description and research. It should be emphasized that such long-term resources are essential for foundation building in the field of Norwegian Sign Language linguistics and are important for the deaf community more generally. Challenges to this project concern a lack of research on this language and appropriate technology. These challenges will be mitigated here through capacity building and collaboration between national and international partners and the Norwegian deaf community. The project leader has a strong international background in signed language linguistic research, and she, with her colleagues in the Program for Signed Language and Interpreting and the Department of Language and Literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), have an extensive national and international network across academia, teaching and interpreting, and the deaf community. This puts them in the unique position to undertake and bring this important project to fruition.


FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam