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Congratulations to iSLanDS graduate Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, the first Deaf African to achieve a PhD in linguistics

14 April, 2014

We are thrilled to announce the success of our graduate Sam Lutalo-Kiingi from Uganda, the first Deaf African to earn a doctorate in linguistics. His thesis is entitled ‘A Descriptive Grammar of Morphosyntactic Constructions in Ugandan Sign Language (UgSL)’, and is the first attempt at describing the morphosyntax of an African sign language, many of which are severely under-documented.

Using an inductive approach, a corpus-based methodology and extensive fieldwork in Uganda, Sam studied how UgSL signers construct utterances of morphosyntactic complexity. His findings include that UgSL has especially interesting ways of expressing negation and possession, as well as an unusually extensive pronominal system. As a native Deaf user of UgSL who is also fluent in several other sign languages, Sam also relied on introspection and his insider status among members of the Ugandan Deaf community, who were instrumental in providing data.

Dr Lutalo-Kiingi at WOCAL7

Dr Lutalo-Kiingi at WOCAL7

He said that the myriad accomplishments of Deaf Ugandans over past decades are a great source of inspiration to him, and he hopes his work further boosts the growing linguistic and cultural pride amongst this community as well as more widely in Africa, whose many complex and fascinating sign languages have only recently started being researched.

Sam has had an impressive academic career so far, including co-authoring the UgSL dictionary (Wallin et al. 2006) and giving the keynote at the 7th World Congress in African Linguistics (WOCAL7) in Buea, Cameroon, in 2012. He is currently a second-term member of the Sign Language Expert Committee of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a UgSL lecturer in the Department of Special Needs Education at Kyambogo University in Kampala and a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), under which he is doing fieldwork on an indigenous sign language in north Cameroon. This language, known as Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language, has never been documented before.

Everyone at iSLanDS would like to offer their warm congratulations to Dr Lutalo-Kiingi for his well-deserved achievement.

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