UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Professor Bencie Woll


I have been involved in research on sign language for over 40 years, starting with research at the University of Bristol where I was a co-founder of the Centre for Deaf Studies, pioneering research on the linguistics of BSL and on Deaf Studies. I moved to City University London in 2005 to take up the newly created Chair in Sign Language and Deaf Studies. From City I moved in 2005 to UCL, as Professor of Sign Language and Deaf Studies. In 2006, together with colleagues at UCL and City, I founded DCAL, and served as Director until 2017.

My research and teaching interests embrace a wide range of topics related 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 as a first or second language; sign language and the brain, including the neurobiology of sign language; developmental and acquired sign language impairments; and sign language and technology.

I have held nearly £15,000,000 in grants from UK, European and international sources, as Principal or Co-Investigator. As well as publishing the results of this research in a large number of journal articles, I have co-authored and co-edited a number of books, including Sign Language: the study of Deaf People and their Language with Jim Kyle, and The Linguistics of BSL: an Introduction with Rachel Sutton-Spence (winner of the 1999 Deaf Nation Award and 2000 British Association of Applied Linguistics Book Prize), Sign Language: an International Handbook (with Roland Pfau and Markus Steinbach), Sign Language Acquisition (with Anne Baker), Directions in sign language acquisition research (with Gary Morgan), The Signs of a Savant: Language Against the Odds (with Gary Morgan, Neil Smith and Ianthi Tsimpli) and Research Methods in Sign Language Studies: A Practical Guide (with Eleni Orfanidou and Gary Morgan).

In 2012 I was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2016 as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.