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Success for linguistics doctor

18 December 2014

Rachel Atkinson

Sam Lutalo-Kiingi has become the first deaf African to earn a PhD in linguistics

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) student has become the first deaf African to earn a doctorate in linguistics.

Dr Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, who comes from Uganda, received his PhD in Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies at a graduation ceremony held in Preston’s Guild Hall.

The 41-year-old has combined his PhD studies with his position as a Ugandan Sign Language Lecturer in the Department of Special Needs Education at Kyambogo University in Kampala.

He said: “I thank God that I have been able to achieve my doctorate. I’m very proud to be part of UCLan, Kyambogo University in Uganda, the wider African Deaf community and the Ugandan Deaf community in particular.”

Sam was based in UCLan’s International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS) which has a great reputation for deaf studies work both in the UK and around the world. He said:

“In Professor Ulrike Zeshan I had an ideal supervisor with years of expertise in sign language linguistics.”

His thesis was entitled A Descriptive Grammar of Morphosyntactic Constructions in Ugandan Sign Language.

The married father-of-two, who is currently working on a Postdoctoral Fellowship Project on Extreme North Cameroon Sign Language, said: “I really delighted in the postgraduate study group sessions and the lecture series. These gave me the opportunity to discuss fascinating research topics with colleagues both internal and external to UCLan, and gain valuable feedback and direction for my project. Larger events such as international conferences and workshops were also a regular feature of study at iSLanDS and these offered me tremendous experience in terms of debating linguistics issues and sharing findings from my specialist area with other students and scholars in the UK, Europe and further afield.”

Sam has had an impressive academic career so far, including co-authoring the Ugandan Sign Language Dictionary, providing training for sign language instructors in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Cameroon and giving the keynote at the 7th World Congress of African Linguistics in 2012.

He added: “I want to give special thanks to my late mother as her spirit and memory has driven me to achieve my PhD. I now plan to continue working toward the documentation and protection of endangered sign languages and empowering deaf Africans to achieve their dreams in education and in their careers.”