You are very welcome to the upcoming seminar of research team

Beyond Hearing. Cultures Overlooked. We are happy to have as our guest speaker

Maartje De Meulder


Language portraits: investigating embodied multilingual and multimodal repertoires

Thursday 28th February 14 – 15.30 h. room C 5.12 (Commonroom), department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam. Nieuwe Achtergracht 166.


In this seminar I will discuss the use of language portraits as a multimodal, visual research method in investigating embodied multilingual repertoires of people who use both spoken languages and sign languages. These people are mostly deaf, but also hearing. Language portraits are empty whole-body silhouettes in or around which participants colour or draw languages, language variants, or other aspects or modalities of communication. Usually, the drawing/colouring of a language portrait is accompanied or succeeded by a verbal (or written) narrative explaining the portrait. I used language portraits as part of a larger multiple-methods (linguistic ethnographic) study on sociolinguistic sign language vitality. Language portraits have been called a multimodal research method because of combining drawing and colouring with narratives. I will show how the study of linguistic repertoires of signers takes the multimodal aspect of the method to a new level. First, by signers’ insistence on specifying and separating modalities (speech, signing, writing). Second, people not only map forms of communication on the language portrait but also on their own body through specific ways of signing and gesturing in their narratives, thus performing and becoming their language portrait. Strengths and challenges of using language portraits as a research method in the context of deaf signers will be discussed.



Onno Crasborn, professor of Sign Language of the Netherlands, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

Leonie Dronkert, PhD candidate, department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam.

The seminar will be held in International Sign. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided to and from Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) and spoken English.


Maartje De Meulder is post-doctoral fellow, Research Group on Multilingualism, Université de Namur, Belgium.