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SIGN10 announcement: Join us on 16-18 August 2020 in the Netherlands

9 August, 2019

We are delighted to announce that SIGN10, the next event in the series of international conferences of sign language users, will take place at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in August 2020. We look forward to working with our SIGN10 partners at Radboud University on the further steps.

The dates are as follows:

16 August 2020          Pre-conference workshop

17-18 August 2020     SIGN10 conference

This time the local organising team are also planning to host a SIGN10 Summer School on 19-23 August. The Radboud University link to events is here.

Spread the word and look out for more information soon!


iSLanDS celebrates the graduation of PhD student Rita Huhua Fan!

23 July, 2019

iSLanDS PhD student Rita Huhua Fan has celebrated her graduation at the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre (Wednesday 17 July).

Rita’s innovative research was linked to our deaf literacy project in India, and her thesis is titled: ‘An e-learning ecosystem for Deaf young adult learners’ English literacy attainment’. She was supervised by Ulrike Zeshan, Nick Palfreyman and Daniel Waller (Head of UCLan’s School of Language and Global Studies).

Rita UZ graduation shorter

Dr. Huhua Fan (Rita) is joined by two of her supervisors, Ulrike Zeshan and Nick Palfreyman.

We asked Rita to share her impressions with us on this momentuous occasion. She said: “It has been a great pleasure to attend my graduation ceremony at UCLan today – a real once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

“I’m grateful for the companionship of my supervisors and friends at this rewarding and special moment, as they have been extremely supportive during my PhD journey. I’ve also enjoyed catching up with former colleagues at iSLanDS: I’m proud of what they have achieved in the field of Deaf education and sign language research.”

She continued: “iSLanDS remains a leading institute for innovative research, and I am deeply honoured to study with this outstanding team.”

iSLanDS staff adapted

Staff and friends of the iSLanDS Institute celebrate with Rita!

All of the staff at iSLanDS would like to take this opportunity to wish Rita the very best – she has been working at UNESCO for two years, and we are sure she will continue to have an interesting and fruitful career!

Our symposium explores sociolinguistic variation in the Asia-Pacific region

22 July, 2019

How do the signed and spoken languages of the Asia-Pacific region compare in terms of sociolinguistic variation? This was one of the central questions addressed by our Symposium, held on 12-13 July 2019 at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The Symposium, which was possible thanks to support from the Leverhulme Trust and UCLan, attracted around 30 participants from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Germany, Austria, Australia and New Zealand, among others.

Symposium 3

Some of the Symposium’s participants on the afternoon of 13 July.

The opening keynote presenter, Professor Rachel McKee (Victoria University of Wellington), was able to attend thanks to Distinguished Collaborator funding provided by UCLan. She shared research on motivation and innovation in indexing Māori identity in New Zealand Sign Language.

Symposium 1

Distinguished Collaborator Professor Rachel McKee gives the opening presentation.

Sign languages discussed on the first day include the village sign language Kata Kolok (Katie Mudd, Hannah Lutzenberger), Culture Sign in Papua New Guinea (Lauren Reed), Hong Kong Sign Language (Linghui Eva Gan), Indian Sign Language (Ulrike Zeshan) and Indonesian Sign Language (Nick Palfreyman). For spoken languages, Yoshiyuki Asahi examined variation in Japanese, and Hae Sung Jeon looked at phonological changes in Korean.

Symposium 5

Symposium organiser Nick Palfreyman with Rachel McKee and Susanne Maria Michaelis.

Our second keynote presenter, Susanne Maria Michaelis (University of Leipzig), opened day two by discussing variation across Asian and Pacific creoles. Other presenters explored Japanese Sign Language (Keiko Sagara), Chinese Sign Language (Junhui Yang) and Tibetan Sign Language (Theresia Hofer), while Ralf Vollmann presented findings on a multilingual environment in Malaysia, and Phoebe Tay looked at the deaf community in Singapore.


Sociolinguist Dr. Adam Schembri offers reflections on the state of the art.

The Symposium, which was also livestreamed, was brought to a close with insightful reflections by Adam Schembri (University of Birmingham), who reminded us, among other things, that there is no language that is not social.

Symposium 2

Presenters at the conference dinner prove that language is indeed social!

Symposium organiser, Nick Palfreyman, said “I would like to say a big thank you to all who have taken part in the Symposium, especially the presenters and our fantastic supporting team (Danielle, Davide, Deborah, Eilidh, Phil and Priscila).

“Together, we have explored some of the fascinating sociolinguistic diversity of the Asia-Pacific region, and all participants contributed to the wider dialogue that is emerging between spoken and signed language sociolinguists.

“Participants expressed a desire to take this dialogue further, and we look forward to building on the links that we have made on future occasions.

“In the meantime, readers might like to check out some of the live reports on twitter, using #SocVarAP .”

Symposium promotion

Follow our Symposium using livestream!

11 July, 2019

Our Symposium on Sociolinguistic Variation in the Signed and Spoken Languages of the Asia-Pacific region took place on 12-13 July 2019 (#SocVarAP), and this page contained details of how to access the livestream. The final programme is still available here for those who are interested, and the book of abstracts is here.

The languages of the livestream were the same as those of the conference – British Sign Language (BSL) and English. Updates are still available on twitter using #SocVarAP.



iSLanDS welcomes our deaf Indonesian collaborator for a technical visit

9 July, 2019

iSLanDS recently hosted a technical visit from Muhammad Isnaini, our long-term collaborator on the island of Java, Indonesia.

Muhammad is chair of PUPET, the Indonesia Deaf Research Centre, and his visit included several meetings to learn more about project management and funding applications.

Part of Muhammad’s two-week trip took place in London, where he met with staff from Al-Ishara, a deaf Muslim organisation based at the East London Mosque, and with the founder of the Empowering Deaf Society in Ilford.


Finding out about the work of Al-Ishara in Whitechapel

In addition to his role with PUPET, Muhammad teaches deaf children in Java, and interprets live news on Indonesian television.

With this in mind, he also met with teachers of the deaf, and visited Red Bee Media to learn more about BSL interpreting on television. There was also time to call in at DCAL, to find out more about the BSL Corpus Project.

With Lesley McGilp and Herbert Klein

Learning about interpreting – with Lesley McGilp and Herbert Klein at Red Bee Media

RedBee with Clark

Catching up with Clark Denmark at Red Bee Media

iSLanDS Co-director, Nick Palfreyman, joined Muhammad on the London leg of the trip. Dr. Palfreyman said “In the course of this visit we have both learned so much from the people we met.”

“We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped to make the visit a success.”

Visiting DCAL

Visiting members of the BSL Corpus team at DCAL


visiting BSL and Deaf Studies team

Discussing research on deaf history with colleagues from UCLan’s BSL & Deaf Studies team

Muhammad’s visit is part of iSLanDS’ ongoing commitment to build capacity of the deaf community in Indonesia, and was possible thanks to the support of UCLan and the Leverhulme Trust.

Programme now available for our forthcoming Symposium on 12-13 July

12 June, 2019

We are delighted to share the programme for our forthcoming Symposium on Sociolinguistic Variation in the Signed and Spoken Languages of the Asia Pacific region, which takes place on 12-13 July 2019 at the University of Central Lancashire.

The draft Symposium programme can be viewed by clicking here (pdf document).

In addition to our keynote presenters Dr. Rachel McKee and Dr. Susanne Maria Michaelis, we are delighted to announce that Dr. Adam Schembri will be offering his reflections on the theme of the Symposium.

We are planning to provide live-streaming for this event, and we will post more details about that as they are available. Please note that the languages of the Symposium are English and British Sign Language.

If you would like to attend all or part of the Symposium in person, please email us at by Friday 28 June. It would be helpful if you could specify any access and/or dietary requirements that you may have.


SIGN10: Call for host candidates

5 April, 2019

The iSLanDS Institute is excited to announce that we are now in the planning stages for SIGN10, the tenth conference in our SIGN series, and we are seeking a host institution. We expect SIGN10 to take place at some point between April and December 2020.

If you are interested in hosting SIGN10, please send your preliminary expression of interest by email (in English or as a video in International Sign) by 30 April 2019. You should:

  • send a brief description of your institution (including any prior experience of conference organisation);
  • give brief responses to the questions in the video file (click here for the video), or the text file (click here for the PDF), explaining why your institution would be a suitable host;
  • explain the process within your institution for authorising the hosting of SIGN10 (who needs to support and authorise hosting of the conference, and how will you get their support).

Send your email to – you can email us at the same address if you want further details, or would like to discuss something with us before sending your response.

Information about hosting SIGN10 (text in English, PDF file; video on youtube).

You can view photos from previous SIGN conferences in the video below!