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Topics in Linguistics C: Sign Linguistics


Admission requirements



This course presents an introduction into the linguistics of sign languages. The following topics will be covered:
1. Intro: deaf communities, history of the field & current challenges
2. Iconicity in phonology, morphology & syntax
3. Sign language typology
4. Sign language acquisition
5. Gesture and Sign
6. Language emergence

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able:

  • To define notions central and sometimes specific to the field of sign linguistics and Deaf studies and reflect on how they relate to equivalent concepts in the field of spoken language linguistics.

  • To explain and give examples of how modality (visual-manual as opposed to oral-aural) influences linguistic systems, including the role of iconicity.

  • To list several sign languages differing in terms of social setting and explain how this impacts the shape these sign languages take.

  • To explain to what extent sign languages differ from each other and to illustrate this with some examples.

  • To describe how the acquisition of sign languages compares to the acquisition of spoken languages.

  • To list basic differences and similarities between co-speech gestures and sign language structures.

  • To reflect on how the study of sign languages contributes to our understanding of language emergence.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar, with weekly readings. The final assignment consists of a paper on a related topic.

Assessment method

  • Presentation & participation 40%

  • Final paper 60%

Reading list

The papers to be read will be distributed on the course’s Blackboard website.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on this website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher: Dr. V.A.S. Nyst

Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies


not applicable