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LINGUIST List 16.2085

Wed Jul 06 2005

All: Obituary: Mary Brennan

Editor for this issue: Michael Appleby <michaellinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Josep Quer, OBITUARY MARY BRENNAN (died 23-06-05)

Message 1: OBITUARY MARY BRENNAN (died 23-06-05)
Date: 30-Jun-2005
From: Josep Quer <josep.querub.edu>
Subject: OBITUARY MARY BRENNAN (died 23-06-05)

We were very sad to learn of Mary Brennan's death in Edinburgh at the
relatively young age of 61 years.

Mary had been in sign linguistics for thirty years. Her first article
"Can Deaf children acquire language" in 1976 raised questions that
were very new in Europe at the time. This she wrote while working at
Moray House College of Education in Scotland. She always championed
the rights of deaf people and worked hard towards creating respect in
the linguistics world for the investigation of sign languages. She
started the work on British Sign Language in Edinburgh in the early
eighties. In 1987 she moved to Durham to start the Deaf Studies
program within the Deaf Studies Research Unit, as part of the
Department of Education at Durham University. Here she established
with her colleagues diverse courses in interpreting, Deaf studies and
sign linguistics thereby making clear that these fields have an
academic status. In the same period she was also president of the
International Sign Language Association that, just as the SLLS now,
worked for the scientific acceptance of sign language linguistics and
for a high level of exchange at international meetings. Her Ph.D. was
awarded by Stockholm University in 1990 for a thesis on productive
morphology, a work that is well cited in the field. She had a strong
view on iconicity in terms of linguistic analysis but also in terms of
its usefulness for deaf children. She wrote: "I wish to claim that BSL
does not just exploit visuality, it also enables us to 'see' the
meaning that is being expressed through visual imagery, particularly
metaphor". It was typical of Mary to have been so busy with her work
for the deaf community that she didn't get round to completing her
Ph.D. thesis until 1990. At Durham in 1991 an international meeting on
word order took place that resulted also in a significant
publication. In 1998 she returned to Moray House and had been involved
with courses for teachers of the deaf and the development of
multi-media approaches to teaching sign languages. Her curriculum
vitae is on the ADPS website where you can see her also signing the
content http://www.education.ed.ac.uk/adps/who/.

The field and her colleagues will miss her greatly, not only for her
great contribution but also her warmth, humanity and good sense of

The board of Sign Language Linguistics Society

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