Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre



DCAL survey on interpreting

The Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre, University College London is conducting research into BSL interpreter provision in the UK. The purpose of the survey is to gather data about what types of qualifications Registered Sign Language Interpreters have, and why they chose their qualification. DCAL are consulting with various interpreting organisations (such as ASLI and NRCPD), and the results of this survey will be offered to them if the information might offer guidance on setting up new interpreter training programmes across the UK.

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English translations of BSL Corpus data now available

We are pleased to launch English translations of some conversation and all narrative data from the BSL Corpus, available for download at CAVA http://www.bslcorpusproject.org/cava/. These translations provide easier access to the various content of narratives and conversation and allow more flexibility in searching for particular English words and phrases. Thanks to our partner university Heriot-Watt who was involved in the initial phase of this endeavour. A huge thank you to the many translators and translation consultants on the team who worked on this!

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DCAL Research Data Archive

The DCAL Research Data Archive holds the data outputs of the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, from both Phase I and Phase II of the ESRC research grants, and from both DCAL-funded and DCAL-associated projects.

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New project on BSL syntax

A new project “A broadly usage-based account of British Sign Language syntax” aims to document and describe word order and non-manual features in different types of BSL sentences. The project, led by Kearsy Cormier with co-investigators Adam Schembri and Jordan Fenlon, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK and will run for 3 years from December 2016. More...

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Start: Nov 14, 2016 10:00:00 AM

UCL launches innovative on-line short course

UCL’s Deafness, Cognition and Language (DCAL) Centre have developed an innovative on-line short course, ‘Deaf Awareness: Working and Communicating Well with Deaf People’ to improve the way professionals engage with Deaf people and people with a hearing loss.

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Start: Oct 27, 2016 10:00:00 AM

New features ensure the value of BSL Signbank continues to grow

Academics behind the first ever British Sign Language (BSL) usage-based dictionary have added two new features to mark the second anniversary of its launch. The new functions will not only allow users to test their knowledge on BSL signs and regional variation but also to search the dictionary using specific sign features.BSL Signbank is a dictionary that has been developed by researchers at the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at University College London. Launched two years ago, BSL SignBank is based on signs collected from the BSL Corpus, a large video collection of signing by 249 Deaf people filmed in 8 cities across the UK.

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Start: Sep 23, 2016 12:00:00 AM

New study casts light on synaesthesia among signed language users

Many synaesthetes experience colours when viewing letters or digits but a new research study involving academics from UCL, has for the first time, documented a similar phenomenon among users of signed languages.

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Start: Aug 12, 2016 12:00:00 AM

New online resource provides ‘huge leap’ forward in deaf assessments

For the first time, teachers, clinicians and researchers will soon have access to a range of online tests that can be used to assess abilities in deaf children and adults, such as speech reading, sign language vocabulary and understanding.

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Start: Jun 7, 2016 12:00:00 AM

London research centre celebrates 10 years of ‘ground-breaking’ work

Amongst the many research centres in University College London’s eleven faculties, there is one that has become an award-winning beacon for Deaf research. As the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, its director looks backs over a decade of achievement which she believes has placed the Centre as a global leader in its field.

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Start: Nov 12, 2015 9:00:00 AM

DCAL welcomes report on access to health services for deaf people in London

Commenting on the launch of a report by the London Assembly’s Health Committee, which shows that access to health services in the Capital for those who are Deaf or who have a hearing loss is still unacceptable and in need of urgent attention, Director of the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at University College London, Prof. Bencie Woll, said:

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Start: Jun 8, 2015 12:00:00 AM

DCAL in Week@UCL

Last week we launched our new CPD courses and celebrated the 12th anniversary of British Sign Language (BSL) being recognised as an official language in the UK. To celebrate we held a Great BSL Bake-Off!

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Start: Mar 27, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Media Release: "Clarity still required" on future of dementia services for BSL patients

The Director of an internationally renowned British research centre, specialising in the fields of sign language, psychology and neuroscience, has stated that the UK Government needs to do more to ensure the provision of a vital service to diagnose dementia in deaf patients using British Sign Language.

The remarks were made by Prof Bencie Woll, the Director of The Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL), part of University College London and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, following a Short Debate secured by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede in the Upper House, on mental health services for Sign Language users, which took place on Monday night (2 February).

With the firm focus of the debate centred on the appropriate levels of commissioning for specialist therapeutic and mental health services for British Sign Language (BSL) users, Lord Ponsonby raised the issue of the pilot Cognitive Disorders Clinic, run jointly by DCAL and the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and questioned whether the future of the service could be maintained unless it could be commissioned and funded centrally by the NHS.

Prof Woll and her colleagues at DCAL, have led a sustained campaign to secure public funding to provide a permanent specialist neurological service for Deaf patients, with appropriate diagnostic testing and with trained staff who understand both neurology and deafness. DCAL has been working with UCLH to pilot access for Deaf patients to their diagnostic clinic but this short-term funded project will cease in 2015.

“Currently there is no permanent specialist neurology provision to properly assess and diagnose Deaf patients who present with acquired neurological symptoms”, said Prof Woll. “So when a Deaf BSL user with an acquired neurological disability, such as a neurodegenerative disease, like dementia, presents to a clinician in primary care, DCAL’s research indicates that they are often subjected to under-diagnosis, late-diagnosis or misdiagnosis. The consequences of this can be distressing for the patient and the family but it can also lead to poor health outcomes and inefficient use of valuable NHS resources.”

“My colleagues and I have long advocated that it is essential that GPs are able to refer Sign Language users to a specialist clinic where experts can make an early and timely diagnosis on a par with other patients - that is why we established the pilot clinic with our colleagues at the National Hospital for Neurosurgery and Neurology. However, this specialist service does not have long-term funding and when DCAL’s grant support from the ESRC comes to an end, the future of the service is precariously balanced unless UK Ministers and NHS England make a national specialist service a commissioning priority and a funding reality.”

“I welcome the opportunity afforded by Lord Ponsonby’s debate to raise this matter again and to have noble Lords like Lord Hunt fighting our corner was extremely helpful. Moreover, the commitment made by the Minister (Lord Howe) of establishing a working group to look at the way mental health services are provided for Deaf BSL users, was also a positive development.

“However, I am concerned that unless a permanent specialist neurological service for Deaf BSL users is formally established with public money, the health and well-being of those patients may further be compromised due to the continued denial of appropriate and equitable access to NHS treatments and services. I therefore hope the Government and NHS England can provide clarity on this issue so we can move forward.”

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Start: Feb 2, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Launch of Continuing Professional Development Courses

In 2015 DCAL will be offering continuing professional development courses on a range of topics, based on the research expertise and knowledge of researchers at DCAL.

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Start: Jan 12, 2015 12:00:00 AM

New living dictionary for British Sign Language

Now anyone with an interest in British Sign Language (BSL) will have access to the first ever usage-based dictionary created at one of the world’s leading research Universities.

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Language isn't what it used to be (British Sign Language - that is)

Awareness about the changing use of language isn't just limited to speakers of English, who may lament the loss of old words and the inclusion of new words like 'selfie' in the Oxford English Dictionary. Users of British Sign Language (BSL) are being faced with unprecedented change in their language, with some loss of regional variations in signs, and a gap between the older and younger generations emerging.

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Digging into Signs

Ten international research funders from four countries jointly have announced the winners of the third Digging into Data Challenge, a competition to develop new insights, tools and skills in innovative humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis.

Fourteen teams representing Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States will receive grants to investigate how computational techniques can be applied to “big data”; changing the nature of humanities and social sciences research. Each team represents collaborations among scholars, scientists, and information professionals from leading universities and libraries in Europe and North America.

One of these teams is a collaboration between DCAL's Kearsy Cormier and Onno Crasborn (Radboud University, Nijmegen) to develop annotation standards for sign language corpora, using the British Sign Language Corpus and the Corpus NGT (i.e. a corpus of Sign Language of the Netherlands).

Click here for more information about the Digging into Data scheme, including a description of the "Digging into Signs" project.

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Media Release

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Start: Dec 12, 2001 1:45:00 PM

Media Release

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Start: Dec 12, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Media Release

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Start: Dec 11, 2013 5:00:00 PM

Frances Elton's Retirement Seminar

On the 8th November DCAL would like to invite you to an evening seminar in honour of Frances Elton MA who retired in August 2013 after many years working as a sign language researcher at the University of Durham, City University and University College London.

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New Dates for Sign Linguistics Course for Deaf Professionals

Due to a popular demand we are offering another series of our Sign Linguistics Course for Deaf Professionals. This course is suitable for Deaf people who are teaching and studying BSL, assessors and others who are working in the Deaf community in areas such as mental health and other Deaf related jobs. This course will be taught in BSL throughout and the fees have not increased for three years.

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'What do you think the girl wants from Father Christmas?' Theory of Mind research with deaf infants

DCAL Deputy Director, Professor Gary Morgan, and other colleagues from DCAL and City University London have been working with researchers from the University of Sheffield, University of Trento and University of Gothenburg, on a joint project investigating early interaction involving British and Swedish hearing parents and their deaf and hearing 2-3 year old children. This research is the first to show that conversational input about mental states directed towards very young deaf children differs significantly in those areas of interaction thought to be crucial for Theory of Mind (ToM) development. ToM is the reasoning that enables us to reflect on the mental states of others. Importantly it contributes to sophisticated forms of human interaction and provides a basis for understanding others’ actions and dispositions.

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Read my lips - Advances in speechreading research with deaf children

Speechreading is the term used by researchers to refer to lipreading. ‘Speechreading’ is preferred to ‘lipreading’ because lots of information is used from all of the face, not just the lips, when you watch someone speak. For deaf people, this can be their primary route to speech information. Hearing people also make great use of visual speech, although they often don’t realize it. If you think of talking to someone in a noisy bar, a hearing person is much more likely to understand a person if they can be seen. This is where the old joke ‘I can’t hear you without my glasses on’ comes from.

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Deaf Children and Development

A considerable amount of DCAL’s work focuses on research that is improving outcomes for deaf children. DCAL explores how deaf children acquire and use language, as well as how their brains develop. Using this information DCAL can help the parents of deaf children and people who work with deaf children develop tools and strategies to ensure that the children get the best start in life. On the following pages you can read more about some of DCAL’s current research relating to deaf children and development.

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DCAL research on voice hallucinations features in the Lancet

DCAL’s Dr. Joanna Atkinson’s research into voice hallucinations in deaf people with psychosis was highlighted in a Lancet editorial published on 12 March 2012. The editorial was a commentary on a wider review by the journal on the mental health of deaf people. For more information on the research go to: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dcal/research/research-projects/schizophrenia

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ESRC Future Leader Fellowships for DCAL researchers

Two DCAL associates, Dr David Vinson (UCL Cognitive Perceptual & Brain Sciences) and Dr Evelyne Mercure (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) have been awarded Future Leader Fellowships by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) from a total of 54 awards made nationally. The scheme aims to support early career social scientists by funding research projects, and providing researchers with an opportunity to develop the skills and experience they need to become leaders in their field.

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DCAL director receives prestigious award

DCAL Director Bencie Woll is amongst 38 new academics elected to Fellowships of the British Academy at their 19 July 2012 Annual General Meeting. The British Academy is the equivalent of the Royal Society, but for research in the humanities and social sciences. Bencie’s election is a significant achievement, being the first researcher in the field of Deaf Studies to receive this honour.

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BSL Grammaticality Judgement paper ranked in Top 25 Hottest Articles

Cormier, Schembri, Vinson & Orfanidou (2012) is ranked number 5 in ScienceDirect's list of Top 25 Hottest Articles for the journal Cognition, and number 25 for all Elsevier journals within the Arts and Humanities, based on downloads between October and December 2012.

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The Guardian publishes correction about BSL Corpus Project story

After months of correspondence between DCAL and editors at The Guardian, the newspaper has finally published a correction about the story from 8 October 2012 about politically correct signs in BSL that was misleading in its implied connections with the BSL Corpus Project.

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DCAL research features in Lancet editorial

Dr. Joanna Atkinson’s research into voice hallucinations in deaf people with psychosis was highlighted in an editorial  of the Lancet published on 12 March 2012. The editorial was a commentary on a wider review by the journal on the mental health of deaf people.

The editorial focused on issues relating to the need to provide flexible and responsive services to deaf people. Dr. Joanna Atkinson’s research was used as an example to show how the appropriate diagnosis of schizophrenia amongst deaf sign language users can be improved through clinicians taking account of the latest academic work . The editorial also cited the consequences of often poor communication between deaf patients and health professionals.   

For more information Dr. Joanna Atkinson’s research please visit the following webpage.

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Get involved in DCAL's research!

Inspired by DCAL’s work? Would you like to get involved in our research projects into sign linguistics, psychology and neuroscience, and help in a practical way?

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DCAL working with the Cognitive Disorders Clinic

Do you know a Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) user who has developed memory or thinking problems?
Appointments are now being offered for Deaf patients at a top UK neurology hospital.

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Talking about Bilingualism

Across the world most children born today will grow up in bilingual or multi-lingual environments. These children will use two or more languages regularly. One language might be for home, and another for school; or parents might have different linguistic backgrounds. In London and other major cities classrooms are increasingly multilingual. The internet and TV also offer the opportunity for children to learn and absorb new languages. In the past it was thought that early exposure to two languages was confusing for children. But newer research tells us this is not so, and that there are clear cognitive and educational advantages to being bilingual, such as more being able to divide attention between different tasks or understanding the communicative intent of a speaker.

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