Signing brain

”Signing brain. Classifier constructions of Polish Sign Language from neurobiological perspective” - a one year project (2013) financed by the Foundation for Polish Science as a part of INTER enterprise.

The aim of the research is to conduct interdisciplinary study regarding the status of sign language classifier predicates. The planned analyses combine theoretical linguistics’ achievements with functional methods of central nervous system neuroimaging. The project includes the cooperation with Paweł Boguszewski (PhD) and Artur Marchewka (PhD) from Marcel Nencki’s Experimental Biology Institute. The research will embrace the highly iconic Polish Sign Language lexis’ components, especially the question of their linguistic or gestural nature. These predicates being the replacement of lexical verbs in the signed text are not the conventionalized fixed-form signs but rather a kind of scenes representing the actions of real life objects by the means of hand moves within the signing space. According to some researchers the gestural specification of classifier predicates accounts for the notably higher right cerebral hemisphere activity than in a case of other sign constructions. This conclusion, however, has not had a satisfactory neurobiological research confirmation. Hence, the aim of “Signing brain” project is to verify the following hypothesis: if the status of classifier predicates in sign language system is indeed fundamentally different from the status of typical verbs, brain activation processes connected with the perception of each of these classes should reflect this discrepancy. In this light, exceptionally interesting seems to be the role of the right cerebral hemisphere (specialised in forms, sizes, and visual object distribution recognition). In order to verify the above hypothesis a group of deaf people will undergo functional magnetic resonance examination (fMRI –functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). It is a pioneering enterprise in the field of Polish science, which will help to make contribution of new arguments to the international discussion on legitimacy of the view of sign communication as a simple counterpart of phonic communication (only articulated by hands and not speech apparatus) and its current extent.

Info in PJM.