An interview on linguistic variation with Josep Quer

Josep Quer
2019 Isogloss  
Fabra. His work has focused on the analysis of a range of phenomena (negation, agreement, quantification, etc.) that hinge on the interaction between different grammar components (morphosyntax, semantics, prosody) both in spoken and sign languages. He is currently working on the formal study of sign languages, both with a focus on the morphosyntax and semantics of Catalan Sign Language (LSC) and on crosslinguistic and crossmodal research. He has made important contributions in this field, for
more » ... ample, he led the research group that published the first comprehensive grammatical description of LSC. Among his publications, the following ones merit special attention: Mood at the Interface (Holland Academic Graphics, The Hague, 1998), Gramàtica bàsica de la llengua de signes catalana (DOMAD, Barcelona), Exhaustive and non-exhaustive variation with free choice and referential vagueness: Evidence from Greek, Catalan, and Spanish (Lingua, 2013), and When agreeing to disagree is not enough: Further arguments for the linguistic status of sign language agreement (Theoretical Linguistics, 2011). He is currently the principal investigator of a European Research Project within the framework of Horizon2020: SIGN-HUB (693349), with the title "The Sign Hub: preserving, researching and fostering the linguistic, historical and cultural heritage of European Deaf signing communities with an integral resource", which gathers nine different institutions. Isogloss: From your perspective, how do the relevant levels of abstractness (namely "language," "dialect," and "idiolect") apply to sign languages? JQ: Sign languages constitute a particularly interesting domain to explore this fundamental question. In research we tend to approach signing communities in more or less the same way we approach spoken language communities, but the degree of variation within a community of signers is much higher that within a community of speakers. This stems from the fact that for most deaf people language acquisition will take place under atypical circumstances: only 5-10% of deaf people in Western societies are born into a family where sign language is used. This means that most deaf signers will start acquiring sign language at later stages in life than at birth, and that will depend on different factors linked to the decisions of hearing parents about learning themselves sign language or enrolling their kid in a bilingual bimodal school. For many deaf individuals, their parents will opt for spoken language only, especially after their kid has received a cochlear implant. In case spoken language acquisition turns out to be unsuccessful or incomplete, as happens in many cases, those deaf individuals may discover sign language and the Deaf community as teenagers or even adults. This means that their exposure to sign language will take place many years after the critical period
doi:10.5565/rev/isogloss.78 fatcat:wvxko6hn7zgi5c5z565ptrksy4