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Topics in Linguistics A


Admission requirements

Depending on specific topic


The ‘Topics in Linguistics’ courses offer up to date courses on linguistic research by LUCL staff. The actual content of these courses vary – one semester there may be a course on formal semantics, another semester a course on tense and aspect in a specific language. Since Topics in Linguistics courses are usually on fresh content, it was not known what the actual topic will be of this course (or who the teachers are). Please check the website of the Research MA Linguistics to find out more.

This year’s ‘Topics in Linguistics A’ course is devoted to the documentation and analysis of sign languages. The vitality of sign languages is typically fragile compared to spoken languages. Large urban sign languages are often endangered due the advance of cochlear implants. Rural sign languages are
typically severely understudied and underdocumented. Without a trained eye, linguistic fieldworkers easily overlook the existence of a sign language in their field site. This course aims at creating a basic awareness about sign languages, their structures and their documentation.

Course objectives

The course provides an introduction into the study of sign languages and their user communities. At the end of the course, students will be able:

  • to define notions central and sometimes specific to the field of sign linguistics and Deaf studies and reflect on how they relate to equivalent concepts in the field of spoken language linguistics.

  • to explain and give examples of how modality (visual-manual as opposed to oral-aural) influences linguistic systems, including the role of iconicity.

  • to list several sign languages differing in terms of social setting and explain how this impacts the shape these sign languages take.

  • to reflect on how methods for documenting sign languages differ from documenting spoken languages as well as on how sign language documentation may benefit the development of sign language technologies.

Topics in Linguistics courses discuss topical research by LUCL members; the courses are taught by the actual researchers.

Lecturer: V.A.S. Nyst


The timetable will be available by June 1st at the website of Research Master in Linguistics

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Presentation and paper


Yes. Blackboard

Reading list

The papers to be read will be distributed on the course’s Blackboard site.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Application for Contractonderwijs

After application, students can register for courses and exams through uSis

Contact information

Coordinator of Studies