CfP: An ALT 2022 workshop on ethics, theory, and methods in sign language typology



The field of sign language typology has become increasingly prominent in recent years. The majority of the undocumented sign language diversity in the world is located outside of the Global North. If, for scientific reasons, linguists think it is important to embark on ambitious data gathering projects to expand the breadth and depth of sign language typology, then this will necessarily involve a major effort to collect data from signing communities far from the home institutions of those projects, and of most sign language linguists. We want to open a dialogue about whether typological projects have benefitted or perhaps have harmed wider signing communities, particularly those located outside of the Global North, — if so, then what ways? Also, we find some theoretical issues with the use of traditional frameworks which organize languages into “language families”: for some sign language varieties these frameworks seem to work reasonably well (e.g. Schembri et al 2010) but for many others they do not. These problems are reflected in the unsatisfactory ways in which sign language families are characterized in major cataloguing projects. In raising these and other concerns about the theoretical, methodological, and ethical considerations inherent in sign language typology work, this workshop hopes to create a space for a broad discussion among the community of linguists interested in sign language typology at ALT 14. Such discussions have been taking place in the field already, but generally these have been in more private networks. We believe that a more public discussion of these issues is both timely and important to the future not only of sign language linguistics but also of linguistic typology.

We invite everyone who can address at least one of the following issues but not limited to:

  • Ethics of doing sign language typology research based on original fieldwork data and previously collected and archived data
  • Ethics of doing sign language typology that align with deaf signing communities’ needs
  • Methodological problems of identifying sign language varieties with enormous linguistic and sociolinguistic variation and collecting and analyzing data from these varieties
  • Theoretical issues of categorizing sign languages into ‘families’ for research purposes
  • Theoretical issues of surveying sign languages for comparative purposes
  • Theoretical issues of defining “sign language typology”

For more information, please contact the convenors:
Erin Wilkinson,
Lynn Hou,

The following specifications are excerpted from the ALT XIV call for papers:
Abstracts should be submitted through Easychair:
Abstracts submitted to a workshop will be jointly reviewed by members of the ALT 2022 Abstract Review Committee and the workshop organizers. Abstracts submitted for a workshop but not accepted there will be automatically considered for inclusion in the general or poster session.

Abstract specifications
Abstracts must be anonymous: do not put your name or other identifying information on the abstract.
Abstracts should be at a maximum length of one single-spaced page, 12pt font, with another page (at maximum) for references and examples.
Please put this information at the top of your abstract: abstract title; abstract category (oral, poster, oral/poster); workshop title (if applicable).

Abstract submission deadline: April 1, 2022
Notification of acceptance: June 1, 2022

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Written by Johanna