Dr. Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, University of Kyambogo, Uganda

Dr. Sam Lutalo-Kiingi was born Deaf into a hearing family in Uganda. He grew up using Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) and Ugandan Sign Language (UgSL), he is currently multilingual, using UgSL, KSL, Tanzania Sign Language (LAT), Zambian Sign Language (ZamSL), Ghanaian Sign Language (GhSL), American Sign Language (ASL), Danish Sign Language (DSL), British Sign Language (BSL), International Sign (IS), English, little knowledge in Swahili and Luganda.

He is a senior lecturer and Head of Department of Hearing Impairment and Sign Language Interpretation Studies at Kyambogo University (KyU) in Uganda and the first African Deaf to hold a PhD in Sign Linguistics. His doctoral thesis is titled A Descriptive Grammar of Morpho-Syntactic Constructions in Ugandan Sign Language (UgSL) (2014, iSLanDS, UCLan, UK). With more than 25 years’ experience in UgSL teaching both in the region and internationally. He has been involved in the establishment of training programs in UgSL instruction (since 1994), diploma interpreting (since 2002) and BA & MA in translation & interpreting (2023). He coordinated international projects on sign language teaching in East and Southern Africa. From 2000-2006, he was among the researchers in the UgSL Dictionary project (in cooperation with Stockholm University – Danish Deaf Association – DDL). In collaboration with Ghent University and The University of Manchester, he documented the emancipation and sustainable development of the Ugandan deaf community (2000 – 2020) and the existing UgSL Interpreting Diploma which has been upgraded to a BA and MA at Herriot-Watt University and in the UK (2018 – 2019). He has worked on several linguistic consultancies in the Sign Language teaching and research in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda and with an experience of documenting UgSL storytelling, a literacy book (2017), Tactile signs for Deafblind (2021) and translation of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2020 texts into an Audio-Visual material, UgSL version digitalized in Uganda (2022 – 2023).

Pawlos Kassu

Pawlos Kassu Abebe (PhD)

Pawlos kassu Abebe (PhD) is a Deaf Sign Linguist and a disability rights advocate. His research specialization includes Ethiopian sign language grammar and Tactile sign language used by the deaf in Ethiopia. He has published six books and a number of research papers. He is the Coordinator of Ethiopian Sign Language and Deaf Culture Studies Program Unit at Addis Ababa University. He is also an active advocate for disability rights at national, continental and international levels. Among others he has served as the president of Federation of Ethiopian National Associations of Persons with Disabilities (FENAPD), founding board member of African Disability Forum (ADF). He is currently serving as the president of Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf (ENAD) and board member of Deafblind International (DbI).

Beyond The Theoretical Issues: Where Are We in Research in Indigenous Sign Languages in Africa (A Plenary Presentation)

Dr Pawlos Kassu Abebe (Presenting)
Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Dr Sam Lutalo Kiingi (Presenting)
Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda


Analysis of the presentations at the 14th edition of TISLR conference held in Osaka, Japan reveals that out of the 33 stage presentations none were on the indigenous sign languages in Africa, while only 6 out of the 95 poster presentations were on African sign languages. Despite the fact that there are at least 25 sign languages in Africa. This raises eyebrows for the continent and calls for an explanation offered in our presentation.  This plenary presentation is designed to explain this and more concerning research in indigenous sign languages in Africa. The major objective of the research is to assess the state of research in the indigenous sign languages in Africa from its inception to date and present the whole picture in one. It identifies countries in Africa where research on the indigenous sign languages has started, reviews all available research on indigenous sign languages in Africa, analyzes the languages in focus, official and non-official sign languages, the themes of research, the background of the researchers and the findings. The research also examines the extent to which the focus of the identified research corresponds to the interests of the indigenous sign language signers in each country and if or how the research outputs are utilized to advance the causes of the Deaf communities in their respective countries. To achieve these objectives, the research utilizes Corpus method of data collection. This is majorly used in the study of real language use and makes great contributions to the research of natural sign languages and applied linguistics.  Finally, the research attempts to point out the best way forward for the development of indigenous sign languages in Africa.

Key words: Sign language, Indigenous sign language, Indigenous sign languages signers, official and non-official sign languages.