Woman of Indian descent wearing rounded glasses and a yellow shirt smiling broadly.

Felicia Bisnath

[fə.ˈliː.s(ɪ).jə̞ ˈbɪs.næːθ]


fbisnath at umich dot edu


I am a third year PhD student of linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor advised by Dr. Savithry Namboodiripad and working with the Contact, Cognition and Change Lab and the Cognition, Convergence and Language Evolution research group.

I am interested in language contact, specifically contact between different modalities e.g. the modality of spoken languages and the modality of signed languages. My most recent research is a cross-linguistic survey of how a multimodal contact phenomenon is manifested across 37 signed languages (see a preview of this work in the video below). I am also interested in how minoritised languages like creole and signed languages are discussed and taught in linguistics, and the development of categories in linguistics. In future work, I will investigate mental representation of multimodal units and the relationship between production and perception.

What's new?

Here are some of my recent activities.

ALT14 conference

I will be participating in the Linguistic Typology and Diversity: Theory, methods, and ethics in sign language typology workshop convened by Dr. Erin Wilkinson & Dr. Lynn Hou at the 14th Conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology that will take place from December 15th-17th 2022 in Austin, Texas. I am part of a group presenting "Deconstructing notions of morphological ‘complexity': lessons from signed and spoken languages" authored by Felicia Bisnath, Marah Jaraisy,Hannah Lutzenberger, Rehana Omardeen & ,Adam Schembri

LDLT6 conference

I gave a talk at the Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory conference that will take place from December 16th-18th 2021. My talk is titled "Language ideology and language documentation in sign language typology" [video] [slides] [abstract].

LingCologne conference

I have a poster at LingCologne2021 that took place from June 10th-11th 2021. Poster here.

HDLS 14 conference

I presented a poster on mouthings across signed languages at the High Desert Linguistics Society 14 conference. Find my poster here.

I was also co-author of another talk on "in" and "on" in Swedish at HDLS 14 with Calle Börstell

CLS 56 conference

I did not present at CLS 56 at the University of Chicago in April of 2020 as it was canceled due to COVID-19. My talk will appear in the CLS 56 proceedings though! Link to pre-print here.


Mouthings in 37 signed languages: typology, ecology and ideology [preprint]

Sign languages, like creoles, have been minoritised in linguistics. This makes perspectives on creoles the potential to illuminate the study of sign languages. A common way that sign languages are divided is into deaf and rural groups, based on social criteria. This distinction makes relationships between social and linguistic properties relevant. This paper investigates one such causal relationship, specifically whether extent of contact with spoken language(s) via institutionalised education translates into higher prevalence of the silent articulation of spoken words, mouthing. Across 37 sign languages (26 deaf; 11 rural) mouthing is prevalent regardless of language type, having been reported in 35 languages (25 deaf; 10 rural). This suggests that differences in language emergence do not produce a structural difference in terms of mouthing. Language documentation should include description of contact phenomena and ideologies, and comparison can avoid stereotyping of language groups based on tokenised cases (de facto prototypes).


  • Ariana Bancu, Joy Peltier, Felicia Bisnath, Danielle Burgess, Sophie Eakins, Wilkinson Daniel Wong Gonzales, Moira Saltzman, Yourdanis Sedarous, Alicia Stevers & Marlyse Baptista. In preparation. "On 'revitalizing' attitudes towards Creole languages". To be submitted to Decolonizing Linguistics, A. Charity-Hudley, C. Mallinson and Mary Bucholtz (eds.), Oxford University Press.
  • Felicia Bisnath. Under review. Mouthings in 37 Signed Languages: typology, ecology and ideology. [preprint]
  • Felicia Bisnath. 2021. "Wh-questions in the Trinidad and Tobago Signing Community". Proceedings of the Fifty-sixth Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society. [pdf]
  • Felicia Bisnath & Silvia De Grandis. 2018. A Diachronic Study of Transparency in Sranan. Linguistics in Amsterdam 11(2). 179-210. [pdf]

Presentations & Posters


Courses taught

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

University of the West Indies, St. Augustine

  • Sept-Dec 2019: Structure and Usage of Caribbean Sign Language II (Lecturer)

Teaching training

Get in touch

Feel free to contact me about my research!