Short CV/Education and training

  • 1990 – 1996
    MA in linguistics, oriental studies and English, University of Cologne, Germany

  • 1996 – 2000
    PhD in linguistics, University of Cologne

  • 1999 – 2003
    Research Fellow, Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, Melbourne, Australia

  • 2001 – 2006
    Academic Consultant, Indian Sign Language Cell, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai, India

  • 2003 – 2006
    Research Fellow under the German Research Council's Emmy-Noether Programme, Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, NL

  • Since 2006
    Professor of Sign Language Linguistics, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Selected publications

  • Ahereza, N., H. Fan, J. Gillen, M. Nyarko & U. Zeshan (2016) SLEND Sign Language to English by the Deaf: Literacy development with Deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content. Proceedings of the South Africa International Conference on Educational Technologies (SAICET2016).

  • Gillen, J., U. Papen, S. Panda & U. Zeshan (2016) Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy – Working with young deaf people and peer tutors in India, Language and Language Teaching 5 10, 1-7.

  • Sagara, K. & U. Zeshan (eds.) (2016) Semantic Fields in Sign Languages. Colour, Kinship and Quantification. Sign Language Typology Series No. 6. Berlin a.o.: De Gruyter Mouton & Lancaster: Ishara Press.

  • Zeshan, U. & Panda, S. (2015) Two languages at hand: Code-switching in bilingual signers. Sign Language & Linguistics 18(1): 90–131.

  • Zeshan, U. (2015) “Making meaning” – Communication between sign language users without a shared language. Cognitive Linguistics 26(2): 211–260.

  • Zeshan, U., Escobedo Delgado, C.E., Dikyuva, H., Panda, S. & de Vos, C. (2013) Cardinal numerals in village sign languages – Approaching cross-modal typology. Linguistic Typology 17(3): 357-396.

  • Zeshan, U. & Dikyuva, H. (2013) Documentation of Endangered Sign Languages – The Case of Mardin Sign Language. In: Jones, M. & Ogilvie, S. (eds.) Keeping Languages Alive: Documentation, Pedagogy, and Revitalization. Cambridge: CUP, pp. 29-41.

  • Dikyuva, H., Delgado, C E Escobedo, S. Panda & U. Zeshan (2012) Working with village sign language communities: Deaf fieldwork researchers in professional dialogue. In Zeshan, U. & C. de Vos (eds.): Sign Language in Village Communities: Anthropological and Linguistic Insights. Sign Language Typology 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton and Nijmegen: Ishara Press.

  • Panda, S. & Zeshan, U. (2011) Reciprocal Constructions in Indo-Pakistani Sign Language. In: Evans, N., Gaby, A., Levinson, S.C. & Majid, A. (eds.) Reciprocals and Semantic Typology. Typological Studies in Language Series. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • Zeshan, U. (2010) Village sign languages – A commentary. In: Napoli, D.J. & Mathur, G. (eds.) Deaf Around the World: The impact of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Schwager, W. & Zeshan, U. (2008) Word classes in sign languages – Criteria and classifications. In:

    Ansaldo, U., J. Don & R. Pfau (eds.), Studies in Language 32:3, 509-545.

  • Sethna, M., M. Vasishta & U. Zeshan (2004) Implementation of Indian Sign Language in educational settings. Asia Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal 15(2): 15-39.

  • Zeshan, U. (2004a) Hand, head and face: Negative constructions in sign languages. Linguistic Typology 8(1): 1-58.

  • Zeshan, U. (2004b) Interrogative constructions in sign languages – Cross-linguistic perspectives. Language 80.1, 7-39.

Complete list of publications

Selected projects

  • 2003 – 2008 Project director (German Research Council, DFG), "Typology of sign languages – Comparative linguistic studies of sign languages"

  • 2008 – 2011 Principal Investigator, UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) British Council project “Distance education for sign language users”.

  • 2009 – 2011 Principal Investigator, Education Partnerships in Africa Programme (British Council), “Training and employability for the deaf communities in Ghana and Uganda”.

  • 2009 – 2013 Principal Investigator, EUROCORES, EuroBabel (European Science Foundation / AHRC), project “Endangered sign languages in village communities”.

  • 2011 – 2016 Principal Investigator, European Research Council, project “Multilingual behaviours in sign language users”.

  • 2015-2016 Principal Investigator, Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development funded programme "Raising Learning Outcomes"; project on deaf literacy.

Membership in scientific bodies/juries

  • Member of the Sign Language and Linguistics Society and Association for Linguistic Typology

  • Member of the peer review college, Education and Social Science Research Council, England

  • Peer reviewer for Australian Research Council, National Science Foundation (US), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Volkswagen Foundation, Leverhulme Trust (UK)

  • Peer reviews for journals, including Language, Linguistics, Sign Language and Linguistics

Soft Skills/Other activities and achievements

Soft Skills

  • Strongly multilingual and multicultural

  • Director, International Deaf Empowerment Foundation and Editor-in-Chief of its associated social enterprise "Ishara Press"

  • Fluent in several sign languages

Other activities and achievements/family

  • One adult son

  • Music (choir, piano and flute)


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  1. Communication Across Language Barriers

    Ulrike Zeshan and her unique team of deaf academics at the University of Central Lancashire work closely with deaf communities around the world to understand how sign languages vary in different countries - and to empower these communities.