UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Prof Bencie Woll

Prof Bencie Woll

Honorary Professor

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Faculty of Brain Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2019

Research summary

My research and teaching interests embrace a wide range of topics related to sign language.

These include 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, sign language, deafness and the brain, and developmental and acquired sign language impairments. I established and now direct the Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, with core funding of 9,500,000 from the ESRC over ten years, from 2006-2015. This is the largest research centre in this field in Europe, with 3 co-directors, and over 30 staff, research students, and associates, working in several main research themes:  Sign Language documentation and Sign Language change; Foundations of Communication, Hemispheric organisation of language processing; Iconicity as a link between language and cognition; Cognitive Control: executive functions; the nature of internal representations for sign and gesture.

Teaching summary

I teach modules on Sign Linguistics and on Deafness, Cognition and Language within the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences as well as supervising MPhil and PhD students. With colleagues, I have recently developed a new on-line self-directed course in BSL. 


University of Bristol
PhD, Linguistics | 1992
University of Essex
MA, Theoretical Linguistics | 1971
University of Pennsylvania
BA, Linguistics | 1970


I am a linguist by training and came to UCL in August 2005 from my previous post at City University London, where I held a Chair in Sign Language and Deaf Studies, the first in this field in the UK. Before coming to London, I was at Bristol, where I first worked on language acquisition and then was a co-founder of the Centre for Deaf Studies, pioneering research on the linguistics of BSL and on Deaf Studies. I was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2012.