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Introduction to the study of Sign Languages and Gesture studies


Admission requirements



Sign Language of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal, NGT) is the first language of many deaf people in the Netherlands. This language differs in grammar and lexicon of spoken Dutch. It also differs from Flemish Sign Language. Hearing people who have not learnt a sign language use gestures when they speak.

This course introduces you to the linguistic study of gestures and sign languages. Firstly, we will look at how culture and identity influence the use of gestures, and at the role of gestures in a) creating meaning, and b) the learning process.

Secondly, we will discuss the linguistic structures found in sign languages and their emergence, and how the structures are manipulated in artistic contexts.

Finally, we will trace the spread of the Old French Sign Language family across the world, and discuss the impact of language ideologies in society and education on the transmission and endangerment of sign languages.

As part of the course, students will make assignments involving making video recordings and annotating and analyzing them in ELAN.

Course objectives

The objective of the course is to develop a knowledge basis regarding:

  • The concepts central to sign language linguistics

  • The relation between signing and gesturing

  • Common ideologies and their impact on vitality and form of sign languages

  • The emergence and endangerment of sign languages

  • The distribution of the major sign language families worldwide

Also, the students will acquire practical skills in the form of:

  • Making video recordings of sign or gesture production

  • Annotating video data of signing or gesturing in ELAN

  • Analyzing sign or gesture data in ELAN


Linguistics (BA)

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 140 hours
Lectures: 2 x 13 hours: 26 hours
Study of compulsory literature: 30 hours
Assignment(s): 24 hours
Preparation exam: 60 hours

Assessment method

Written exam with open questions: 70%

Assignment: 30%

In case of failing the course only the exam can be re-sit.

Grades will be communicated through Blackboard. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

Sharing reading materials and handing in assignments

Reading list

Online reading material will be listed on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on this website


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher:

Victoria Nyst

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies