DCAL Associated Projects

BSL Syntax Project

This project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims  to document and describe word order and non-manual features in different types of BSL sentences, using the BSL Corpus.

Who to contact: Kearsy Cormier


Speechreading Training and Reading Intervention

Researchers at the Deafness Cognition and Language Centre, University College London have designed some fun space-themed computer games that aim to improve speechreading (lipreading) and reading skills in young deaf children.  

Who to contact: Hannah Pimperton


Visuo-spatial working memory and sign language

This project is a collaboration between DCAL and the University of Link0ping. It aims to determine how sign-language knowledge affects the way we keep visual information in mind in order to solve a problem. From a cognitive perspective, sign languages can be used as tools for investigating to what degree mental representations and processes are based on, or are independent of, underlying sensory and motor mechanisms. Specifically, we will investigate to what degree the mental representations and processes that support working memory for sign language also support visuo-spatial cognition, to what degree visuo-spatial abilities are enhanced by language abilities in signers and non-signers, and what neural substrates mediate this enhancement.

Who to contact: Velia Cardin 


Developing neurological tests for deaf BSL users

This project is funded by a small grant from Deafness Research UK. It will create a range of cognitive tests for British Sign Language users that will help clinicians make more informed decisions that will improve the health of deaf people. It will for the first time, allow us to undertake detailed and accurate diagnosis of neurological conditions in deaf signers. 

Who to contact for more information: Jo Atkinson


Deaf with Dementia Project

This project is funded by the Alzheimer Society and focuses on three areas in partnership with University of Manchester, City University (London) and Royal Association of Deaf People: 1) Development of cognitive tests for identifying dementia in older Deaf signers, the experiences of deaf people with dementia and their carers, and awareness of dementia in the Deaf Community.

Who to contact for more information: Jo Atkinson


Healthy Older Deaf Brain Project


This project is part of the broader Deaf with Dementia project. We are collecting information about normal memory and cognition in older deaf signers. The data is used to develop new cognitive tests to identify dementia in deaf BSL users, which can be used in clinical settings.

Who to contact for more information: Jo Atkinson


Families with Deaf Children Project (Theory of Mind)

This project investigates how deaf children communicate with their families. The collected data will help determine how deaf children develop and understanding of the social world around them. Results from this study will help to make intervention programmes be more effective.

Who to contact for more information: Gary Morgan


Reading and Dyslexia in Deaf Children



Many deaf children have reading difficulties but there are no reading tests designed specifically for deaf children. This Nuffield Foundation-funded project aims to produce scores for deaf children in Year 6 on a number of deaf-friendly reading tests. As part of the same project, we are investigating dyslexia in deaf children which is currently difficult for teachers to spot.

Who to contact for more information: Ros Herman


Web-based British Sign Language Vocabulary Test 


The goal of this project is to develop a vocabulary assessment for BSL that can be administered to school-age children through the internet and explore the feasibility of this format.

Who to contact for more information: Wolfgang Mann


The neurobiological basis of language: insights into late language acquisition and reading from deafness 




In this project we use different behavioural and neuroimaging methodologies to find out how the brain processes language. We do this by working with people who are born profoundly deaf and by looking at different aspects of their language skill such as BSL processing, speechreading and reading. In particular we are interested in the impact of age of language acquisition on how the brain processes language.

Who to contact for more information: Mairead MacSweeney

Measuring brain lateralisation during language processing with fTCD

Functional Transcranial Doppler Sonography (fTCD) is a reliable non-invasive measure of the speed of blood flow in the main arteries supplying the brain. We use fTCD  to investigate language lateralisation during different language tasks. FTCD allows us to investigate brain lateralisation under conditions that would prove challenging with other neuroimaging techniques (e.g, fMRI), such as overt production of BSL or in studies with children, especially deaf children with cochlear implants. We aim to investigate how the patterns of lateralisation differ for different language tasks and how they relate to behavioural measures such as reading and speechreading abilities. Importantly, we aim to investigate how these lateralisation patterns develop as a function of biological and experiential factors in children born profoundly deaf.

Who to contact for more information: Mairead MacSweeney, Heather Payne and Eva Gutierrez

DCAL Assessment Portal

The DCAL Portal website provides on-line access to assessments of deafness, cognition and language developed through research carried out at the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) research centre. In addition to providing access to important tests and resources for researchers, professionals and families of deaf children, the wider use of these tests will also contribute to our broader understanding of deafness and language.

Who to contact: info@dcalportal.org

Examining the influence of sensory and language experience on brain function

Exploring language processing in people born deaf offers direct insights into the cognitive and neurobiological conditions under which language develops. When a language is acquired from birth, the left perisylvian cortex is recruited for language processing, regardless of whether this is delivered auditorily via speech or visually via a signed language (MacSweeney et al., 2002). In our current work we are now exploring how age of sign language acquisition and language task demands influence this language processing network

Who to contact: Tae Twomey (t.twomey@ucl.ac.uk) & Mairéad MacSweeney (m.macsweeney@ucl.ac.uk)

BSL Signbank

We used data from the BSL Corpus Project to create an online dictionary and lexical database of British Sign Language, BSL SignBankMore…

Who to contact: Kearsy Cormier

Digging into Signs

The aim of this project is to develop cross-corpus annotation standards for sign language data, using the BSL Corpus in the UK and Corpus NGT  in the Netherlands, and to improve current software tools in working with sign language corpora, in collaboration with Dr. Onno Crasborn (Radboud University, Nijmegen).

Who to contact: Kearsy Cormier

Sights and Signs project



This is a cross-linguistic endeavor in collaboration with Linköping University (LiU), Sweden. It investigates the cognitive and neural representation of linguistic (sign language, SL) and non-linguistic (invented signs) processing in the visuo-spatial domain in native signers of Swedish and British Sign Language, and deaf and hearing non-signers.  

Who to contact for more information: Velia Cardin

Changing Languages and Identities (CLI) Project

This study is motivated by the many changes in the deaf community over the last 20 years related to early diagnosis, use of Cochlear Implants, type of schooling and access to Higher Education and the impact these changes may have on language and identity of the deaf community. In this context, we will look at three groups of 16-19 year olds - a group attending mainstream programmes and uses CSWs/interpreters to access the curriculum, a group attending a deaf, oral school and another group attending a deaf, signing school. One of our main aims is to study issues related to language and identity. In addition to the deaf students, we are also including CSWs and interpreters, who work in education. All participants will partake in interviews and complete a number of linguistic tasks.

Who to contact for more information: Kate Rowley

Sign Language Interpreter Language and Interpreting Aptitude 

This longitudinal study uses a battery of language, motor/gesture and psychological tests to compare expert sign language interpreters with those in undergraduate interpreter training programs.

Who to contact for more information: Christopher Stone

Deaf-blind research projects 

The following projects explore the signing of individuals who have reduced visual field as a result of Usher syndrome, and signers who have become totally blind, specifically:  - the role of visual feedback in signing  - perception and production of facial information by blind signers - the role of vision in spatial grammar  - fMRI of tactilely and visually perceived fingerspelling.

Who to contact for more information: Bencie Woll

Specific Language Impairment (SLI) in deaf children who use sign language

The SLI project is the first major study of language impairment in signing deaf children. The project aims to better understand and characterise SLI in deaf children and to develop assessments in order to identify language impairment in signing deaf children.

Who to contact for more information: Kathryn Mason

Voice hallucinations in deaf people with schizophrenia

This project explored the perceptual characteristics of voice hallucinations in deaf people with schizophrenia.

Who to contact for more information: Joanna Atkinson

Directional verbs in BSL

Who to contact for more information: Kearsy Cormier, Jordan Fenlon

This project is a corpus-based study of variation and change in the use of directional verbs in BSL, led by researchers at DCAL in collaboration with Dr. Adam Schembri (La Trobe University, Melbourne).

Sign Language Phonology Project


Who to contact for more information: Wolfgang Mann

This project investigates how deaf children between the ages of 3 and 11 years learn different aspects of phonology in sign language, such as hand shapes and movement to help us understand more about the nature of BSL and how it is acquired.

Forensic Applications of Lipreading


Who to contact for more information: Bencie Woll

What it is about: 
This Home Office funded project was run in collaboration with Deafworks. It explored the experiences of expert lipreaders engaged in forensic work, especially in transcribing silent videotapes for the content of spoken conversation. Two reports for public use were developed for use by potential clients. These are Guidance for organisations planning to use lipreading for information gathering and Lipreading for information gathering: a survey of scientific sources

Synesthesia and Sign Language Project 


Who to contact for more information: Joanna Atkinson

What it is about:
 This joint project with the University of Sussex investigates synaesthesia, a perceptual condition where people have extra perceptions such as colours for letters, or tastes for words, as it applies for Deaf and hearing signers. The particular type of synaesthesia the researchers are looking at is called Sign-to-Colour where people see colours when they sign or see others sign.  

Translation and norming of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) into BSL 



This study is developing a BSL version of the BDI for use in the clinical assessment of depression by professionals working in the field of deafness and mental health.
Who to contact for more information: Joanna Atkinson

Working memory and sign language in Deaf children


What it is about:
 This project investigates the relationship between language and working memory in children who are deaf and acquiring British Sign Language as their native language, and in particular:
 (1) How much variation in BSL skills in typically developing deaf children can be accounted for by variation in phonological and visuo-spatial working memory skills? 
(2) Are working memory skills impaired in deaf children with atypical sign language development?
 (3) For both groups of children, what is the relationship between working memory abilities and the use of classifiers?
Who to contact for more information: Chloe Marshall

British Sign Language Corpus Project


Who to contact for more information: Kearsy CormierAdam Schembri

What it is about: 
This collaborative project has two main aims: 
(1) to create a collection (a "corpus") of video clips showing Deaf people using BSL that will be put on the internet and 
(2) to carry out research using this collection into BSL grammar and vocabulary, variation in BSL across the country and how BSL is changing.

British Sign Language: Quality Embedding of the Discipline (BSL:QED)

Who to contact for more information: Frances Elton

Expression of Perspective, Location and Motion in British Sign Language (PaLM) 


Who to contact for more information: Kearsy Cormier

What it is about:
 The main aim of this project is to establish a new on-line curriculum for the teaching of British Sign Language (BSL) at HE level.

This project looks at how deaf adults and children with various signing backgrounds use the space around them when signing BSL. Data are collected from deaf adult signers, and also longitudinal data are collected from deaf children at 3 stages over 5 years.

Early British Sign Language Development (EBSLD) 


Who to contact for more information: Bencie Woll

What it is about:
 This project forms part of the 'Positive Support in the Lives of Deaf Children and their Families' project and involves developing a BSL assessment for children aged 8-36 months. The assessment is an adapted version of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory (CDI), a standard tool used with spoken languages. The BSL-version of the CDI will be published in the next few months.

Imaging the Deaf Brain


Who to contact for more information: Mairead MacSweeney

The main aim of our project is to learn more about what happens in the brain when people watch a person sign or speak.

Executive Sub-Committee on Innovations in Teaching Learning and Assessment (ESCILTA) 


Who to contact for more information: Frances Elton

What it is about: The aim of this project is to develop teaching and learning material for use both on-line and off-line by BSL learners at UCL.

Positive Support in the Lives of Deaf Children and their Families 


Who to contact for more information: Bencie Woll

Sign and gesture (constructed action in signed languages) 


Who to contact for more information: Kearsy Cormier

This project aims to capitalise on the current implementation of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) to monitor key outcomes for deaf children in the first few years of life and their families and to relate these to the details of specific interventions. The key outcomes currently being monitored are language, communication, play and social behaviour and motor and physical development. In addition, the project aims to measure the type and extent of support and intervention, including family functioning, and to relate these to outcomes. From this we hope to be able to disseminate more robust information upon which parents may make informed choices and services may base their improvements in provision so that early development is likely to be optimal and the social exclusion of deaf children reduced.

What it is about:
 We are investigating ways in which signers of different sign languages take advantage of constructed action (the signer's use of parts of his/her body to portray characteristics of a referent) to complement the linguistic part of a message. Data are from British, American, and Mexican Sign Languages.

Sign Segmentation Project


What it is about: 
This is a three-year ESRC-funded project which looks at how Deaf people process language when watching BSL signs. Learning a language is the result of many things working together, and we are interested in finding out whether this is the same for Deaf people as it is for hearing people. We are mainly interested in how signers understand where each sign starts and finishes during continuous signing.

Who to contact for more information: Gary Morgan

Translation and standardization of the TEIQ into British Sign Language

Who to contact for more information: Christopher Stone

The study will develop and pilot the first ever measure of Trait Emotional Intelligence designed to assess personal disposition in Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users.