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Dr M. (Marloes) Oomen

Faculty of Humanities
Capaciteitsgroep Taalwetenschap
Photographer: Sander Nieuwenhuys

Visiting address
  • Spuistraat 134
  • Room number: 6.39
Postal address
  • Postbus 94242
    1090 GE Amsterdam
  • Profile

    About me

    I am an Assistant Professor on the interface between sign language grammar and Artificial Intelligence at the Linguistics department. 

    I enjoy analyzing naturalistic corpus data and I have a knack for detecting interesting patterns in them, but I also like integrating experimental methods in my work, as well as collaborating with experts in machine-learning and Computer Vision techniques. I strongly believe a combination of methods and perspectives gives us a more well-rounded view of whatever linguistic phenomenon we are studying: corpus data are ideal for determining the extent of variation, while data obtained in more controlled experimental settings can tell us more about the constraints on variation. Using AI approaches helps spur the development of technological applications like automatic annotation tools to facilitate future research on NGT and other sign languages. Moreover, AI can help us strengthen the connection between linguistic theory and language use and application in society through the development of applications such as e.g. sign language avatars.

    I am currently working on my Veni project entitled Cat – there. Soap – where? Abstract use of space in Sign Language of the Netherlands. Together with research employee Tobias de Ronde, I aim to map out in a three-dimensional model how the signing space is partitioned for referential purposes in NGT. Here's a brief project description:

    "In sign language conversations, people, animals, and things often get associated with seemingly random locations in space: sign ‘cat’ and point to the right, then point again to refer to that same cat. This research identifies the unwritten rules signers apply when picking out spatial locations to represent such referents."

    I hold a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from University College Utrecht (major: Linguistics and Cognitive Neuroscience), where my interest in sign linguistics and sign language structure was first sparked. After obtaining my degree for the research master Linguistics at the UvA in 2015, with a thesis on psych-verbs in Sign Language of the Netherlands, I continued at the same university with a PhD project on argument structure in German Sign Language (DGS).  In 2020, I defended my dissertation on verb classification and the syntactic and semantic properties of verbs in German Sign Language at University of Amsterdam. 

    After finishing my dissertation, I was a tutor and lecturer at the Linguistics department for a year (2019-2020). I taught various courses on syntax/semantics and sign language linguistics in the BA and MA Linguistics programs, and I supervised a number of BA/MA theses.

    I then spent 1+ year as a Niels Stensen Fellow with Carlo Geraci and the other members of the sign language group at Institut Jean Nicod in Paris. During this time, I studied the phenomenon of "Neg-raising" - a popular topic among (spoken language) syntacticians, pragmaticians, and semanticists alike - in three sign languages. 

    After Paris, I returned to UvA to work as a postdoc in the project I can't hear you - could you repeat the question in sign language please? (PI: Floris Roelofsen). We investigate how different types of (biased) polar questions are marked in Sign Language of the Netherlands, using experimental methods to obtain data.

    This latter project has led to a 'spin-off' project with Floris, PhD student Lyke Esselink, and research employee Tobias de Ronde, that aims to contribute toward development of a community-shared standard for manually annotating non-manuals in sign language (and multimodal) data. The project's still very much ongoing - keep an eye out for publications!



    An updated version of my dissertation has been published as a book in the De Gruyter series Sign Languages and Deaf Communities! You can get a (hardcover or digital) copy here. Or, read my dissertation for free here.

    Here's what's on the book's back cover:

    "In many sign languages around the world, some verbs express grammatical agreement, while many others do not. Curiously, there is a remarkable degree of semantic overlap across sign languages between verbs that do and do not possess agreement properties. This book scrutinizes the interaction between semantic and morphosyntactic structure in verb constructions in German Sign Language (DGS). Naturalistic dialogues from the DGS Corpus form the primary data source. It is shown that certain semantic properties, also known to govern transitivity marking in spoken languages, are predictive of verb type in DGS, where systematic iconic mappings play a mediating role. The results enable the formulation of cross-linguistic predictions about the interplay between verb semantics and verb type in sign languages. An analysis of the morphosyntactic properties of different verb types leads up to the conclusion that even ‘plain’ verbs agree with their arguments, where iconicity again plays a crucial role. The findings motivate a unified syntactic analysis in terms of agreement of constructions with verbs of all types, thus offering a novel solution to the typological puzzle that supposedly only a subset of verbs agree in DGS and other sign languages."

    My name sign. Illustration by Casper Wubbolts, inspired by Victoria Nyst and colleagues (Universiteit Leiden)
  • Publications


    • Spijker, L., & Oomen, M. (2023). Hesitation Markers in Sign Language of the Netherlands A Corpus-Based Study. Sign Language Studies, 23(2), 164-196. [details]
    • van Boven, C., Oomen, M., Pfau, R., & Rusch, L. (2023). Negative Concord in Sign Language of the Netherlands: A journey through a corpus. In E. Wehrmeyer (Ed.), Advances in sign language corpus linguistics (pp. 30-65). (Studies in Corpus Linguistics; Vol. 108). John Benjamins Publishing Company. [details]





    • Kimmelman, V., Klomp, U., & Oomen, M. (2018). Where methods meet: Combining corpus data and elicitation in sign language research. In M. Bono, E. Efthimiou, S-E. Fotinea, T. Hanke, J. Hochgesang, J. Kristoffersen, J. Mesch, & Y. Osugi (Eds.), 8th Workshop on the Representation and Processing of Sign Languages: Involving the Language Community: LREC 2018 Workshop : proceedings (pp. 95-100). European Language Resources Association (ELRA). [details]





    • Oomen, M. (2022). Recurring iconic mapping patterns within and across verb types in German Sign Language. In S. Lenninger, O. Fischer, C. Ljunberg, & E. Tabakowska (Eds.), Iconicity in Cognition and across Semiotic Systems (pp. 289-328). (Iconicity in Language and Literature; Vol. 18). John Benjamins Publishing Company. [details]



    Prize / grant

    • Oomen, M. (2022). NWO Talent Programme - Veni scheme.

    Talk / presentation

    • Oomen, M. (speaker) & Roelofsen, F. (speaker) (29-6-2023). Biased polar question forms in NGT: The function of headshake, Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory, Bergen.
    • Esselink, L. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Roelofsen, F. (speaker) (29-6-2023). Measuring facial non-manual markers with a depth sensing camera: A case-study on polar questions in NGT, Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory, Bergen.
    • Esselink, L. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Roelofsen, F. (speaker) (10-6-2023). TrueDepth measurements of facial expressions: Sensitivity to the angle between camera and face, Sign Language Translation and Avatar Technology, Rhodos.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker), Pfau, R. (speaker) & Klomp, U. (speaker) (27-9-2019). On the nature of Neg-raising in Sign Language of the Netherlands, Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research 13, Hamburg.
    • Klomp, U. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Pfau, R. (speaker) (3-5-2019). Headshake patterns in Neg-raising sentences in Sign Language of the Netherlands, SignNonmanuals2, Graz.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) (16-11-2018). Iconicity in sentence structure, Priročna slovnica (Handy grammar) , Ljubljana.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) & Kimmelman, V. (speaker) (6-10-2018). An agreement analysis of body-anchored verb constructions, North Eastern Linguistics Society (NELS) 49, Ithaca, NY.
    • Klomp, U. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Pfau, R. (speaker) (5-9-2018). Typological aspects of negation in Sign Language of the Netherlands: Negative particles, negative modals and neg-raising, Negation in the languages of the world, Paris.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) & Kimmelman, V. (speaker) (31-3-2018). Iconically motivated subject drop in two sign languages, Syntax of the World's Languages 8, Paris.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) (14-2-2018). Iconically motivated subject drop in German Sign Language (DGS), ConSOLE 26, London, UK.
    • Kimmelman, V. (speaker), de Lint, V. (speaker), de Vos, C. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker), Pfau, R. (speaker), Vink, L. (speaker) & Aboh, E. O. (speaker) (2-2-2018). Non-canonical argument structure in classifier predicates in four sign languages, Argument Structure Across Modalities, Amsterdam.
    • Pfau, R. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Aboh, E. O. (speaker) (20-10-2017). High and low negation in Sign Language of the Netherlands, Western Conference on Linguistics, Boise.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) & Pfau, R. (speaker) (24-7-2017). Signing NOT (or not): A corpus-based study on negation in Sign Language of the Netherlands., Corpus-based Approaches to Sign Language Linguistics, Birmingham.
    • Kimmelman, V. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & de Lint, V. (speaker) (24-7-2017). Overt arguments in RSL, DGS and NGT: a corpus study., Corpus-based Approaches to Sign Language Linguistics, Birmingham.
    • Aboh, E. O. (speaker), Oomen, M. (speaker) & Pfau, R. (speaker) (21-6-2017). High and low negation in Sign Language of the Netherlands., Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory, Reykjavik.
    • Pfau, R. (invited speaker), Kimmelman, V. (invited speaker), Klomp, U. (invited speaker), de Lint, V. (invited speaker) & Oomen, M. (invited speaker) (20-4-2017). Grammar & society: How sign linguistics benefits the Deaf community, Beyond Hearing – Cultures Overlooked, Amsterdam.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) (1-9-2016). Psych-verb constructions in Sign Language of the Netherlands, Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory, Venice.
    • Oomen, M. (speaker) (26-11-2015). Psych-verbs in Sign Language of the Netherlands, 1st Meeting on the Morphosyntax of Portuguese Sign Language and other sign languages, Porto.


    • Oomen, M. (organiser) (16-5-2023 - 17-5-2023). Workshop on Interrogatives and Imperatives in the Visual Modality, Amsterdam (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
    • Lammertink, I. (organiser) & Oomen, M. (organiser) (11-11-2016). Thesis market MA students linguistics, Amsterdam. Thesis market for MA students (linguistics). PhD students and senior researchers of the ACLC present their studies and possibilities for students to (…) (organising a conference, workshop, ...).



    • Esselink, L. D., Roelofsen, F. & Oomen, M. (29-1-2024). Guidelines and evaluation methods for annotating non-manual markers in sign languages - test set for guidelines version 1. Universiteit van Amsterdam.




    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    No ancillary activities