UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


DCAL Celebrate their former Director's achievements

10 November 2022

The UCL Deafness, Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre, hosted a symposium to celebrate the academic achievements of its former director, Professor Bencie Woll.

Bencie Woll profile photo

Professor Woll, the dedicated researcher and advocate of sign language and liguistics

Image taken during a seminar at the celebration of Prof Bencie Wolls academic achievements 2022

The Festschrift, or ‘celebration writing’, was organised by Prof. Gary Morgan (City, University of London) and Dr Velia Cardin (DCAL) to honour the career of Prof. Bencie Woll, who has dedicated over 40 years of her professional life to researching sign language and linguistics.

Presenters that participated in the event included, Dr. Robert Adam, Dr. Joanna Atkinson, Prof. Ruth Campbell, Prof. Rosalind Herman, Prof. Jim Kyle, Dr. Gloria Pullen, Prof. Rachel Sutton-Spence and current DCAL Director, Prof. Mairéad MacSweeney.


A collection of Professor Wolls research topics

Over a long and successful career that began in her native United States in the early 1970s, Prof. Woll has pioneered research within a wide range of topics relating to sign language, including the linguistics of British Sign Language (BSL) and other sign languages, the history and sociolinguistics of BSL and the Deaf community, the development of BSL in young children, and sign language and the brain, including developmental and acquired sign language impairments.

Having held senior positions firstly, at the University of Bristol and then at City, University of London, Prof. Woll went on to establish DCAL in 2005 and served as its first director for over 10 years.

Viewed as one of the most eminent academics in her field, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) in 2012, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences, for her outstanding contribution to science. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (FAAAS) in recognition of her unique contribution to innovation, education, and scientific leadership.

Commenting on Prof. Woll’s legacy, the symposium’s co-organiser, Prof. Gary Morgan said:

“Bencie Woll has been, and continues to be, a major figure in the field of deafness, cognition and language studies. She has created a massive legacy of research findings and collaborators who have been inspired by her sharp research instincts and unfailing support.”

Professor Woll and colleagues at a BSL Act Now Rally 2021

Prof. Woll’s successor as Director of DCAL, Prof. Mairéad MacSweeney, added:

“Bencie Woll has been instrumental to establishing, developing and maintaining research in the field of deafness, cognition and language across the UK.  Her research portfolio is vast and varied.  Not only has her research greatly advanced science, it has also led to many areas of important societal impact for deaf people. It is fantastic to be able to come together to support all of Bencie’s achievements and everything she has done, and continues to do, for the field. Long may it continue!”

A recording of the event is avaliable to watch on YouTube.

A prize fund for early career researchers, set up in honour of Prof. Woll

DCAL have set up a prize fund to honour the career of their founding director, Prof. Bencie Woll - a world pioneer of sign language research. The prize will recognise the work of outstanding early career researchers in the field of sign language.

If you wish to support the fund with a donation, please visit the team's Go Fund Me page using the button below.

Donate to the Woll Prize in Sign Language Research



The Festschrift Symposium took place on Wednesday 9th November 2022 12pm - 5pm at the lecture theatre of 33 Queen Square, UCL and was also streamed online. It was delivered in English and British Sign Language and BSL/English interpreters were also provided.