Sign Language in Göttingen

Cornelia Loos

I received my PhD in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 and have since joined the Experimental Sign Lab at the University of Göttingen as a Researcher and Lecturer.

My thesis investigates the syntax and semantics of resultative constructions in American Sign Language (ASL) and Deutsche Gebärdensprache (DGS). Resultative constructions are sentences like Mary hammered the metal flat or John wiped the table clean; i.e. they describe an action such as hammering or wiping and the result of this action (flat, clean) in a single sentence. My dissertation shows that both ASL and DGS exhibit a comparable construction. However, these constructions differ in form and meaning from their spoken-language counterparts and should therefore be treated as genuine grammatical phenomena in their respective sign languages rather than translations from English or German. The data for my dissertation were collected in the Sign Language Lab at UT Austin and the Experimental Sign Lab at Göttingen University.

Research interests
My research interests cluster around the syntax-semantics interface. I am driven by fundamental questions guiding syntactic and semantic research on signed languages, for example: Which diagnostic tools can we use to determine clause boundaries? Which parts of speech can be distinguished in a given sign language and which formal criteria define them? Further, I am interested in lexical semantics, i.e. answering the question which aspects of the meaning of a word determine its syntactic behavior.

How did I become involved in sign language research?
Back in 2006 I had the opportunity to take an ASL class as part of a seminar on the psychology of deafness at McGill University, Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed learning a new language in a new modality, but as a budding linguist I was also curious as to how to describe and analyze a visual-manual language linguistically. I decided to write my undergraduate thesis on compounding in ASL and realized that this is what I wanted to do. So I enrolled in an MA program in General Linguistics with a strong focus on sign linguistics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. With Roland Pfau as my supervisor, I researched the iconic foundation of speech act verbs in NGT (Nederlandse Gebarentaal). A year later, I joined the University of Texas at Austin to work with Richard Meier on the structure of ASL.