Brita Bergman - Biography#


Brita Bergman's research in sign language started with a term paper in linguistics in 1971. It turned out that the language she was taught at a ”sign language” course, and that she was beginning to analyse, was not a language used by deaf people, but a constructed form consisting of spoken Swedish accompanied with signs. However, she completed the study of this form of sign communication, later referred to as Signed Swedish, and the results were first published in a book in Swedish in 1977 and later in English translation.

Since 1976, Bergman's research has been devoted to Swedish Sign Language. The main impetus was that the schools for deaf at that time did not use sign language in the education of deaf children, and that parents were not encouraged to learn to sign, something she found inhumane and wanted to change. Also, up till then the language of deaf people had not been given any attention by linguists in Sweden, nor for that matter other sign languages, with the exception of American Sign Language. Bergman's studies aimed at showing that signing indeed was a true language. Thus, her research has focused on describing the structure of the language at all levels, including sign, sentence and discourse structure. Some of the studies were included in her doctoral dissertation ”Studies in Swedish Sign Language” (1983). The results of her early research contributed to Sweden becoming the first country in the world to officially recognise sign language as a the language of deaf people (1981), and that the official curriculum of the schools for deaf stated that sign language should be the means of communication in the classroom (1983). More recent research includes studies within cognitive linguistics, especially mental space theory and blending theory, which have proven to be the most useful tools for the analysis of the spatial dimension of signed language. At present, she is studying children’s sign language.
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