LINGUIST List 24.1102

Mon Mar 04 2013

Qs: Elicitation Techniques in Sign Language Research

Editor for this issue: Brent Miller <>

Date: 04-Mar-2013
From: Carlo Cecchetto <>
Subject: Elicitation Techniques in Sign Language Research
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We are the coordinators of a network of researchers working on European sign languages that has been funded by the intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). The official name of this network is SignGram COST Action “Unraveling the grammars of European sign languages: pathways to full citizenship of deaf signers and to the protection of their linguistic heritage”. Its main goal is to coordinate existing research groups working on sign language (SL) grammar in order to create a common blueprint to develop grammars for the different European sign languages. To complement this blueprint, elicitation techniques and materials for the different grammatical properties are needed.

“Materials” is an umbrella term, which includes pictures, videos but also more immaterial devices (like plays, ways to set up linguistic exchanges, suggestions on how to fix problems that usually arise when a specific setting is used, etc.).

If you or your research group have any materials that have been used to elicit sign language production for any kind of sign language research (anything from informal settings when working with informants, to experimental settings), we kindly request you respond to this short, 10-question survey via Survey Monkey – link below – by Tuesday, 30 April 2013. Note that this survey is much shorter than the Word document that was circulated last year (see below) and should be faster for you to complete.

Note: Survey Monkey only allows one response per person/account, so you will not be able to submit multiple responses for different projects/sets of materials. Please give general responses with all of your elicitation materials (for various projects etc) in mind. We will follow up with you for more detailed information in future if needed.

Although the institutional goal of COST is promoting the study of European sign languages, we know that this survey might be helpful also for researchers working on non-European sign languages, so we encourage replies from all countries.

Some background:

In April 2012, we conducted an initial survey (via messages sent to the SLLING and SLLS lists) to determine what kinds of elicitation materials have been used /are being used by sign language researchers, how successful they have been, and whether those surveyed would be interested in or willing to archive their materials with SignGram.

We received 19 responses in total. Of those, 7 were from Iceland, 5 from the UK, 2 from Italy, and 1 each from Italy, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, and Australia. Several of these were multiple submissions from the same person/team. Materials were noted to be relevant to phonology/morphology (15), syntax (9), semantics/pragmatics (9), and/or psycholinguistics (1). Overall, materials were evaluated as having worked fairly well to elicit the desired structures, and most were willing to archive. This is good news, but it will not be cost-effective for us to set up an archive of materials with so few archivers. So, we need your help with a phase 2 survey.

Why archive?

Firstly, archiving helps ensure that you get proper credit for the elicitation materials you have created. Are you already sharing materials with other researchers informally? If so, hopefully your colleagues have properly acknowledged your contribution e.g. in publications arising out of that research. But this might not always happen. By archiving your materials, you can ensure that researchers can only gain access to the archive if they formally agree to properly acknowledge/cite the creators of any materials that are used. Secondly, funders are increasingly encouraging (and some are requiring) that researchers make their data (including collected data but also elicitation materials) accessible to other researchers via some kind of archive. This would help meet such requirements. Thirdly, the more we all put in, the more we all benefit. Would you be interested in having access to a large archive of materials that you could use for your own research? If yes, the only way this will happen is if we share with each other.

What next?

At a later stage (if researchers agree and there no copyright problems) this material could be uploaded to a SignGram Cost Action archive. This should allow different teams to use the same type of material to study the same linguistic phenomenon in different sign languages (adapted for differences among them studied, of course).

Those who respond to the phase 2 survey will be contacted again, with a follow-up about the possibility (or not) of sharing materials. Note that sharing is not required for this survey; any concerns or problems about possibly sharing materials should be included in the survey. We will distribute a report about this survey to everyone who responds to this phase 2 survey (as we have already done for those who responded in phase 1). The more people who respond to this survey, the more useful this exercise will be for everyone.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please contact Kearsy Cormier:

We hope that you find this initiative useful and we thank you in advance for your time and for your invaluable help,

Josep Quer and Carlo Cecchetto

Linguistic Field(s): Discipline of Linguistics Language Family(ies): Sign Language

Page Updated: 04-Mar-2013