City University Sign Segmentation Project
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Welcome to the Sign Segmentation Project website.

You will find out more about our project and keep track of our progress.

We are based at City University, in St John’s Street. We can be contacted by email, fax or minicom.

This a three year ESRC funded project

We are an affiliated project to the new Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at 49 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury.

Click here for BSL - Click here for BSL

Project Updates

September 2006

The first experiment is ready. We are going to test a small number of people to see how the experiment works. If it works out well, we will then take it to the wider British Deaf Community and test different people from different backgrounds.

December 2006

Robert Adam, the postgraduate researcher will attend the TISLR conference in Brazil.

January 2007

The London-based researchers, Dr Gary Morgan, Dr Eleni Orfanidou and Robert Adam will travel to the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen, The Netherlands to work with Dr James McQueen on preliminary results.

Robert Adam collected data from 60 Deaf people from London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol.

We would like to say many thanks to all our participants and contacts in the British Deaf community

March 2007

Eleni Orfanidou, Robert Adam and James McQueen will travel to San Diego for the 20th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing will be hosted by the Center for Research in Language at the University of California, San Diego. The conference will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art of San Diego, in La Jolla.

April 2007

The project team will start work on the next stage of the project looking at cues in the sign stream stream that signers may rely upon in identifying individual words during continuous signing.

We will be contacting all our participants in the next 6 months to see if they are willing to get involved again in our next experiment.

March-May 2007

Dr Eleni Orfanidou and Robert Adam presented the results of the first studies of the project at the 20th Annual CUNY Conference on human sentence processing, in San Diego, in March.

Dr Eleni Orfanidou was invited to present this work at the Visual Prosody in Language Communication workshop at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen (, The Netherlands, May 9-10, 2007.

July 2007

Our abstract for the XV World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf on 16 – 22 July 2007 has been accepted.

Click here for a .pdf file of our presentation. (coming soon)

July 2007-January 2008

We developed our second experiment that aims to investigate the role of the transitions to different locations where signs are articulated during continuous signing.

The Max-Planck Institute ( researcher, Dr James McQueen (, travelled to London to meet with the rest of the team in order to discuss the progress of the project and make future plans.

February 2008-August 2008

Robert Adam collected data from 40 Deaf people in London, Bristol and Edinburgh for our second study on the role of the transitions. Many thanks to participants.

We developed the stimuli for our third study. Our question is: if there are many signs using a particular location (e.g. head) or handshape (e.g. fist), will that help or hinder sign recognition?

September 2008

Gary Morgan spoke at the Sign Typ Conference held at the University of Connecticut ( what happens in transitions between signs.

Click here for a .pdf file of our presentation

September-December 2008

The results of our second study on the role of the transitions between signs for recognition were presented by Dr Eleni Orfanidou at the14th Annual Conference in Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing, in Cambridge.
December 2008

Eleni Orfanidou and Robert Adam traveled to the Centre for Deaf Studies ( at Bristol University on 12 December 2008 to give an invited lecture about the findings of our transitions study.

Click here for a .pdf of our presentation.

January 2009

Robert Adam finished work with the project to take a position as Postgraduate Researcher in DCAL (, at University College London. He continues with the project in an advisory capacity.

March 2009

Our research on mistakes made in sign comprehension was published in the Journal Memory and Cognition.

Click here for the .pdf document.

This paper focuses on the role of the phonology of the sign in comprehension. We found that during comprehension native Deaf signers are guided mostly by the Location of and least by Movement. Non-native Deaf signers are also guided by the Location of the sign but least by its Handshape. These preferences explain why signers sometimes make mistakes when viewing non-signs and report seeing real signs.

We developed a pilot study on sign form preparation with Pat O'Seaghdha, which involved looking at pictures of objects which were related by a BSL handshape or a BSL movement . This investigated whether people would respond quicker to a picture if the last picture seen was related to the current picture by handshape or movement. This data is still being analysed.

April 2009

Robert Adam is currently testing Deaf participants for our third experiment on transitions between signs. We have collected data from 15 participants.

The project was extended until the 2nd October 2009.

We submitted a second paper, this time to the Journal of Memory and Language: Recognition of signed and spoken language: Different sensory inputs, the same segmentation process.

James McQueen was made Professor and moved to the Radboud University, Nijmegen (

Eleni Orfanidou moves to DCAL to work on Brain imaging and sign language

October 2009

Testing carrying on the neighbourhood density study

December 2009

The Journal of Memory and Language paper was accepted.
Click here for a .pdf copy of this paper.

We are writing our final report to the ESRC

At the start of the project we got very good theoretical advice from Anne Cutler, Karen Emmorey and Onno Crasborn

The project would like to acknowledge the support of the following organisations for the recruitment of subjects:

Birmingham Institute for the Deaf
Centre for Deaf Studies, Bristol
Deaf Action, Edinburgh
Frank Barnes School, London
Merseyside Society for Deaf People, Liverpool

and specifically Lorna Allsop, Louise Stratton, Liz Scott-Gibson and Sandra David.

Come to our DCAL Deaf Open Day on 20 March 2010 at the Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre. Click here for more information. (

For further information please contact:

Robert Adam