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Sign Language Linguistics (Linguistics)
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Door Spruijt

"I discovered that I actually really love conducting research. And this academic study is a step up from my previous degree, but now I know I’m capable of this too."

Why did you want to continue your study of Sign Language at an academic level?

I enjoyed my programme in Utrecht so much, especially the linguistics component, that I wanted to delve deeper into the subject matter. Right now I really like the courses that compare languages. I’m currently taking a class that explores all of the different levels that exist within a language. A language isn’t just words and sentences, you can completely dissect a text into paragraphs, sentences, words and morphemes (meaningful units of language), and even smaller into phonemes and phonetic sounds. You can keep going smaller. The same thing holds true for sign language. In the theoretical courses about sign language, we frequently draw comparisons from spoken languages, but we also look at differences. And, because the group of sign language linguists is small, we often work with the other linguistics students, which is great!

What is your favourite course?

Morphology (and syntax), which is about word-formation. It covers everything between syllables and words, and how they can be combined to form more complex words that carry all sorts of information. We also had another great course (language typology) in which we were all assigned a foreign language to investigate. When we came back together in class, we compared the languages at all of the different levels and looked for typological patterns.

Is there a certain type of student that studies Sign Language Linguistics?

No, not really. The group is pretty diverse. It is true that many of the students are broadly interested. Like my fellow student Livia said, you get a lot of empathy for and understanding of the position of minority groups within society, and how you can make the world more accessible for them. Personally, I also think it’s important that a study is very personal and that you have a lot of contact with professors, and that’s definitely true for Sign Language Linguistics.

Has the programme surprised you?

I discovered that I actually really love conducting research! And this academic study is a step up from my previous degree, but now I know I’m capable of this too.

What comes next?

The UvA ensures that you have a strong theoretical foundation, which is quite different from a hogeschool where you are primed for a particular occupation. So this programme has been much broader. I have quite a few ideas about my future career. Because of my hogeschool studies, I think it would be great to teach, but I’ve now discovered that I really like to conduct research as well. Lately I’ve been thinking that I’d like to become a teacher at a school for the deaf or work with children who have language development issues. I can now do all of these things, within this field.

What advice would you give prospective students?

Join the ‘Student for a Day’ programme! On a day like that you can really get a feel for the atmosphere and what it is like, and how fun and great it really is.