Hi, I am Diane Brentari, a professor here at the University of Chicago and Director of the Sign language Linguistics lab. For a long time I have been fascinated with the sign language structure. Currently my work involves three topics:

  • Communication modality on language – How vision influences sign language, how sound influences speech, how touch influences how deafblind people communicate with each other.
  • How sign languages develop in historical time – How are gesture and sign related to each other.
  • Sign language typology – How are sign languages around the world similar or different from one another.

Naturally I do not work alone. I collaborate with various departments here at the University of Chicago and with other universities around the world.

Recent books by Brentari

2019 — Brentari, D. Sign Language Phonology. Key Topics in Phonology Series. Cambridge University Press.

This book describes the current state of the field of sign language phonology and is a concise overview of its concepts and  contributions to related fields. Working on sign languages not only provides important new insights on familiar issues about the nature of phonology itself, but also poses a new set of questions concerning the emergence of language that are grounded in sign language phonology.

2018 — Brentari, D., and J. Lee. Shaping Phonology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

This volume traces the trajectory of autosegmental phonology, the first non-linear phonological theory, and computational approaches to phonology, which have had a powerful effect on the way that the notion of “data” has been conceived of and analyzed over recent decades. Both of these areas have been profoundly affected by the work of John Goldsmith, one of the most influential phonologists of the past 50 years. This book honors his contributions to both of these important domains of phonological inquiry.

2010 — Diane Brentari (Ed.) Sign Languages: A Cambridge Language Survey. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2010.

This thematic and geographic overview examines more than forty sign languages from around the world. It begins by investigating how sign languages have survived and been transmitted for generations, and then goes on to analyze the common characteristics shared by most sign languages: for example, how the use of the visual (rather than the auditory) system affects grammatical structures. The final section describes the phenomena of language variation and change.

2001 — Diane Brentari (Ed.) Foreign vocabulary in sign languages: A cross-linguistic investigation of word formation. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, 2001.

This book takes a close look at the ways that five sign languages borrow elements from the surrounding dominant spoken language community where each is situated. If offers careful analyses of semantic, morphosyntactic and phonological adaptation of forms taken from a source language (in this case a spoken language) and borrowed into a target sign language.

1998 — Steven Lapointe, Diane Brentari, and P. M. Farrell (Eds.) Morphology and its relation to phonology and syntax. CSLI Publications, Stanford University, 1998.

This volume explores key issues in current morphology and the interactions of morphology with phonology and syntax. The topics included are from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives. The papers, presented at a thematic workshop on this topic at UC-Davis, are complemented with replies to each of the papers and edited transcripts of the discussion that followed.

1998 — Diane Brentari. A prosodic model of sign language phonology. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998.

This book is intended in part to provide linguists and cognitive scientists who do not know sign language with a point of entry into the study of sign language phonology. At the same time, it presents a comprehensive theory of American Sign Language phonology (the Prosodic Model), while reviewing and building on alternative theories.