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Professor Lorraine Leeson

Professor in Deaf Studies (C.L.C.S.)


Professor in Deaf Studies (Centre for Deaf Studies)

Lorraine Leeson is Professor in Deaf Studies at the Centre for Deaf Studies, and served as Associate Dean of Research (2018-2021). Her research work is multidisciplinary in nature, influenced by her background in Deaf Studies, Gender Studies and Linguistics. She has published widely on aspects of the linguistics and applied linguistics of signed languages with a specific interest in Irish Sign Language and in the area of sign language interpreting. Her doctoral work was the first to examine aspects of the morphosyntax of Irish Sign Language, and subsequent to this, she has published and lectured widely on aspects of the grammar of Irish Sign Language, and in the area of signed language/spoken language interpreting. Lorraine was a member of the first cohort of professionally trained Irish Sign Language/English interpreters in Ireland, and she continues to interpret occasionally. She has engaged in pan-European research work with academic institutions, Deaf communities and interpreting organisations for over two decades. Recent projects include: - Promoting Excellence in Sign Language Instruction (funded by the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) 2015-18. See:, - the DESIGNS project, which focused on Deaf peoples' access to employment (Erasmus+). See: - the European Commission funded Justisigns Project (access to justice across several EU member states) (completed 2016), which examined deaf peoples' access to police services, and which was awarded a European Language Label Award in 2017. Lorraine also led the PRO-Signs (funded by the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML)) which looked at the teaching, learning and assessment of signed languages for professional purposes with collaboration from over 30 countries across Europe. See: (Completed 2015). She is currently working on Justisigns 2, a European Commission funded project that seeks to improve access to services for deaf, migrant and refugee women who experience gender based violence. Recent publications include "Sign Language in Action" with Jemina Napier (2016), "Interpreting and the Politics of Recognition", co-edited with Christopher Stone (2018), and, most recently, a special issue of the journal, Teanga, on Irish Sign Language (2020).
  Bilingual/Bicultural Education   cognitive linguistics   Deaf Studies   E-Learning   interpreting studies   Irish Sign Language   Language acquisition   Language Policy   modality and language   Morpho-syntax of signed languages   Signed Languages
 TORCH -Transforming Open Responsible Research and Innovation through CHARM
 Deaf Interpreter Training Programme
 Enterprise Ireland Funding to Support Horizon 2020 Coordinator Application
 DESIGNS: Deaf Employment for Sign Language Users in the EU (2016-1-IE-01-KA202-016895)
 Enterprise Ireland: Horizon 2020 Coordination Support for Academics - €11,492

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Details Date
Member of RISLI Registration Panel (Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreters) 2020
European Centre for Modern Languages Expert on Sign Languages 2013-
Member of the Royal Irish Academy Multidisciplinary Committee on Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication 2018-
ARTIS Associate (Advancing Research in Translation and interpreting Studies). 2014-present
Founder Member of the Irish Deaf Research Network (IDRN) 2008- present
Advisor - Deaf Studies Trust, Bristol 2013 - present
Chair of the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters Expert Group 2012-2019
Member of the Trinity Asian Centre for Asian Studies Board 2015-2018
Board Member - Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) 2011 - 2013
Member of the Royal Irish Academy Modern Languages Committee 2010-2013
Member of the Partnership Group on Deaf Education (CIDP-IDS-DeafHear-Schools for the Deaf-CDS) 2007-2013
Editor of "The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter", St. Jerome Publishing. 2007-2011
Director - Dublin City Radio (DCR) 2008- 2010
Member of the Editorial Board, Deaf Worlds: International Journal of Deaf Studies 2001-2008
Member of the Irish Sign Link ISL/English Acccreditation Review Panel 2004-2006
Language Skill Reading Skill Writing Skill Speaking
American Sign Language Medium Medium Medium
British Sign Language Medium Medium Medium
English Fluent Fluent Fluent
French Medium Basic Basic
Irish Basic Basic Basic
Irish Sign Language Fluent Fluent Fluent
Details Date From Date To
Irish Association of Applied Linguistics (IRAAL) 1994 present
International Cognitive Linguistics Association
Irish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (IASLI) (disbanded in 2008) 1993 2008
Irish Translators and Interpreters Association (ITIA)
Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) 2008 present
International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS) 2010 present
European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters 2010 Present
Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (CISLI) 2011 Present
International Pragmatics Association 2017 2018
Societas Linguistica Europea 2020 present
Association for Criminal Justice Research & Development (ACJRD) 2016 present
Ireland's Third Language: Irish Sign Language in, editor(s)Raymond Hickey , The Oxford Handbook of Irish-English, London, Oxford University Press, 2021, [Susanne Mohr and Lorraine Leeson], Book Chapter, IN_PRESS
Justisigns: Developing research-based training resources on sign language interpreting in police settings in Europe. in, editor(s)Brunson, Jeremy L. , Teaching legal interpreting, Washington DC, Gallaudet University Press, 2021, [Napier, Jemina; Skinner, Robert; Turner, G. H.;Leeson, Lorraine; Lynch, Teresa; Sheikh, Haaris; Vermeerbergen, Myriam; Salaets, Heidi; Doggen, Carolien; Haug, Tobias; Bucher, B.; Diaz, B.; Berger, M.; Krähenbühl, M. ], Book Chapter, IN_PRESS  URL
Access to Justice for deaf signers: the Justisigns Project in, editor(s)Goedele A.M. De Clerk , UNCRPD Implementation in Europe - a deaf perspective: Article 9: Access to information and communication, Brussels, European Union of the Deaf, 2021, [Leeson, Lorraine; Jemina Napier, Tobias Haug, Teresa Lynch, and Haaris Sheikh], Book Chapter, SUBMITTED  URL
Mirella De Sisto, Dimitar Shterionov, Irene Murtagh, Myriam Vermeerbergen and Lorraine Leeson, Defining meaningful units. Challenges in sign segmentation and segment-meaning mapping, 1st International Workshop on Automatic Translation for Signed and Spoken Languages (AT4SSL 2021), MTSummit2021, August 2021, ssociation for Machine Translation in the Americas, 2021, pp98-103 , Notes: [Available Open Access at:], Conference Paper, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text
Lorraine Leeson, Building Forward, Building Better: Sign Language Interpreting in the 21st Century, UTICamp, Kiev, Ukraine and online, July 2021, 2021, Ukranian Translation Industry, Notes: [Presentation can be viewed here (among presentations on 20-21 July 2021)], Invited Talk, PUBLISHED
Lorraine Leeson, Effortful Engaging, Joining up Dots, and Building Back Better: Lessons from COVID 19 for Sign Language Interpreters, Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Nigeria (ASLIN), Online, 30 July 2021, 2021, Timothy Tinat, Chair, ASLIN, Invited Talk, PRESENTED
Alison Vere, Marie Alexander, Lorraine Leeson, Debra Russell, and Christopher Stone, Growing the profession in Malta: from classroom to goldfish bowl, World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), Online, July 2021, 2021, Notes: [Abstract: Malta is an island nation with a national (legally recognised) sign language (Maltese Sign Language - LSM). Legal recognition of LSM enabled lobbying for graduate level education of those working as interpreters and to recruit students wishing to work as interpreters. This development was led by Maltese professional expertise and the engagement of academic expertise at the University of Malta. In wishing to ensure relevant national training and state of the art education both national and extra-national educators were used within the program. While delivering the Postgraduate Diploma in Maltese Sign Language Interpreting Covid struck. This presentation will focus on: - how national expertise can be capitalised upon, - and how mixed classes of experienced and novice interpreters enable the formation of a cohesive professional network - and how this supports both working and new interpreters. It will highlight the benefits of national knowledge and when it is appropriate and useful to augment this with extra-national expertise. And, in light of Covid, it will discuss the use of video technology in training interpreters when international travel is not allowed. Video conferencing technology enabled 'gold fish bowl' class simulated practice including preparation, interpreting and debriefing. Our goal is to outline how capacity building can occur with rich knowledge exchange irrespective of financial (or travel) constraints. ], Oral Presentation, PRESENTED
M. de Sisto, D. Shterionov, I. Murtagh, M. Vermeerbergen and L. Leeson, Defining meaningful units. Challenges in sign segmentation and segment-meaning mapping, Machine Translation Summit 2021, Online, August 2021, 2021, Notes: [Abstract: This paper addresses the tasks of sign segmentation and segment-meaning mapping in the con- text of sign language (SL) recognition. It aims to give an overview of the linguistic properties of SL, such as coarticulation and simultaneity, which make these tasks complex. A better understanding of SL structure is the necessary ground for the design and development of SL recognition and segmentation methodologies, which are fundamental for machine translation of these languages. Based on this preliminary exploration, a proposal for mapping segments to meaning in the form of an agglomerate of lexical and non-lexical information is introduced.], Oral Presentation, PRESENTED  URL
Lorraine Leeson, KEYNOTE: Co-constructing a Road Map for Sign Language Machine Translation , 1st International Workshop on Automatic Translation for Signed and Spoken Languages (AT4SSL), USA, August 2021, Association for Machine Translation in the Americas, 2021, Notes: [], Oral Presentation, PUBLISHED
Language Policy Programme, Education Policy Division, Education Department, Council of Europe, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Companion Volume, 1, Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 2020, 1-273pp, Notes: [There is no option to include 'other' input in the preparation of a volume like this, so I selected 'Advocate' as the least bad option here.... I was involved in Stage 4 consultancy regarding the development of descriptors for signing competences (2015-19). Note that the Authoring Group for this work were: Jörg Keller, Petrea Bürgin, Aline Meili, Dawei Ni; Sounding Board: Brian North, Curtis Gautschi, Jean-Louis Brugeille, Kristin Snoddon; I served as one of several consultants: Patty Shores, Tobias Haug, Lorraine Leeson, Christian Rathmann, Beppie van den Bogaerde. See: ], Book, PUBLISHED  URL

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Interview with Ciara Plunkett 14 January 2021, 'Kildare Focus', KFM Radio, 2021, -, Broadcast, PUBLISHED
Lorraine Leeson, 'How sign language interpreters tell the story of what's going on', RTE Brainstorm, 13 January 2021,, RTE , 2021, -, Broadcast, PUBLISHED
Lorraine Leeson, Variation in Irish Sign Language, Variation in Irish Sign Language, University of Manitoba , 25 February 2021, 2021, Terry Janzen, Invited Talk, PRESENTED
Nina Shiel and Lorraine Leeson, Towards an Integrated Approach to RRI: Lessons from Interdisciplinarity, LERU-CE7 Research Ethics Online Seminar, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University , 22 April 2021, 2021, Oral Presentation, PRESENTED
Jennifer Daly and Lorraine Leeson, 'What do you want to know.... about sign languages?', What do you want to know about?, Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, 2020, -, Broadcast, PUBLISHED
Lorraine Leeson and Carmel Grehan, The Common European Framework of Reference and Signed Language Curricula, ISL Academy Workshop, Deaf Village Ireland, Dublin, 27 January 2018, 2018, Irish Sign Language Academy, Invited Talk, PRESENTED
Lorraine Leeson, Haaris Sheikh and Council for Irish Sign Language Interpreters, Interpreting in Workplace Settings, 22 April 2018, In:Interpreting in Workplace Settings, 2018, Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Meetings /Conferences Organised, PRESENTED
Carmel Grehan and Lorraine Leeson, European Language Portfolio for Sign Languages (ELP-SL), ISL Academy Workshop, Deaf Village Ireland , 16 June 2018, 2018, Oral Presentation, PRESENTED
Lorraine Leeson and Carmel Grehan, European Language Portfolio for Sign Languages (ELP-SL), Pro-Sign II Network Meeting , European Centre for Modern Languages, Graz, 5-6 April 2018, 2018, Oral Presentation, PRESENTED
John Bosco Conama, Haaris Sheikh, Lorraine Leeson, The DESIGNS Project: Deaf Employment in Europe, 8th Community Interpreting Conference, TCD ARTS BUILDING , 8 June 2017, 2017, Conference Paper, PRESENTED


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Award Date
NRB Scholarship 1996
British Academy Fellowship 2004
European Commission Language Ambassador of the Year Award 2009
Fellowship, TCD 2009
M.A. (J.O.) TCD 2011
European Language Label Award for Medisigns Project (LLP/LdV/TOI/2010/IRL-511) 2013
Conferred with Honorary Membership of the Irish Translators' and Interpreters' Association 2014
Patron - Irish Deaf Women's Group October 2015
Nominated for Provost's Global Award 2014-15
Kerry Deaf Resource Centre Outstanding Contribution Award 2016
European Language Label Award for Justisigns Project 2017
My research spans three domains: (1) linguistics & applied linguistics of sign languages (SLs), (2) interpreting studies (IS), & (3) trans-disciplinary work that impacts on deaf studies topics. As a student, I found just one paper published on Irish Sign Language (ISL) & very little empirical work on SLI or sign language teaching and learning (SLT&L). Across my career, I have focused on changing this by promoting a culture of empirical research, by documenting aspects of ISL, & aspects of interpretation. I am particularly adept at navigating the space between linguistic research and applied practices. At Trinity, I have led the development of a cohort of researchers working on ISL using Grounded Theory (GT) methodologies. My linguistics work includes analyses of the morpho-syntax & semantics of ISL, & sociolinguistic issues associated with ISL use. Cognitive linguistics work has focused on the role of gesture, the role of metaphor & metonymy in ISL, & simultaneity in SLs. Much of my data comes from the "Signs of Ireland" corpus, which I spearheaded in 2004. This has facilitated significant description of aspects of ISL by myself and others. My IS research explores provision of interpreters in a range of domains. One current project marries work from cognitive linguistics, gesture studies and IS (with Terry Janzen and Barbara Shaffer), investigating how simultaneous interpreters of spoken & signed languages conceptualise events. Another considers interpreting in settings where gender based violence is addressed (Justisigns 2). I have also developed a GT of interpreting interaction, "Effortful Engagement", which has fed into analysis of interpreting in a range of settings. It is the first to consider the work required of all stakeholders in interpreted interaction (most look only at the cognitive efforts of the interpreter). I have been invited to present on this work around the world, presenting keynote addresses in Brazil, the USA, Australia & New Zealand. My applied linguistics work includes significant engagement at European level. I am a European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML)/Council of Europe (COE) expert on SLs. I have examined aspects of the teaching, learning and assessment of SLs for professional purposes (PRO-Sign 1 & 2). This work underpinned a critical body of cross-European empirical applied sign linguistics research, led to a series of international conferences, & to the addition of SLs as a focus for the ECML in their work. I served as a consultant to the COE on the development of the modality inclusive Common European Framework of Reference for Languages - Companion Volume (CEFR-CV) (2020), which, for the first time, presents descriptors of competence for both spoken and signed languages. This segues with research around SL policy in Europe, theorising around how adult learners of SL navigate the process, and how SL teachers respond to their learners. In 2013, I spearheaded the development of a corpus of adult second language, second modality (M2L2) ISL learners. This is one of the first such corpora in the world, and was built as a parallel corpus (Swedish Sign Language is the other language) with colleagues from Stockholm University. Nationally, my work has fed into the conversation around the legal status of ISL (ISL Act 2017), the development of a register for ISL SLIs and research led curricula. At European level, my work has directly influenced the establishment of core competencies for SLIs & SL teachers, & the development of a modality inclusive CEFR. As a result of this work, I am frequently invited to advise NGOs, universities and governmental bodies at home and around the world on issues relating to my domains of expertise.