Erin Wilkinson

Personal Website

My study of signed language linguistics spans the last 20 years. My broad research interests include: bilingualism, language documentation and description, language change and variation, signed language typology, and language planning and policy in highly diverse signing communities. My current studies involve collaboration with other researchers to examine cognitive and linguistic processing in signing bilingual populations. I also explore how linguistic structures are re-structured over time in signed languages and what factors contribute to language variation and change in signed languages through the lens of usage-based theory. Also, my research elucidates ethical issues that have been overlooked, and probes the perspectives of deaf individuals regarding these ethical issues, mostly in the context of language policy in Canada.

Educational History

  • Ph.D., 2009, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Linguistics “Typology of signed languages: Differentiation through kinship terminology,” William Croft, Chair
  • M.A., 2001, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, Linguistics “Experience or hearing status: What makes hearing and deaf signers different?,” Sarah Taub, Chair
  • B.A., 1999, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Language Studies, Andrea Levitt, Chair
  • 1998-1997, Universiteteti Bergen, Norway, Linguistics

Selected Publications

  • Wilkinson, E., Lepic, R., & Hou, L. (2022). Usage-based grammar: Multi-words expressions in American Sign Language. In T. Janzen & B. Shaffer (Eds.), Festschrift: Sherman Wilcox, Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
  • Wilkinson, E. & Morford, J. P. (2020). How bilingualism contributes to healthy development in deaf children: A public health perspective. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 24(11), 1330-1338. doi: 10.1007/s10995-020-02976-6.
  • Snoddon, K. & Wilkinson, E. (2019). Problematizing the Legal Recognition of Sign Languages in Canada. Canadian Modern Language Review, 75(2), 128-144.
  • Wilkinson, E. (2016). Finding frequency effects in usage of NOT collocations in American Sign Language. Sign Language & Linguistics, 19(1), 82-123.
  • Fenlon, J. & Wilkinson, E. (2015). Sign languages in the world. In A. Schembri & C. Lucas (Eds.), The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages and Deaf Communities, pp. 5-28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:
  • Wilkinson, E. (2013). A functional description of SELF in American Sign Language. Sign Language Studies, 13(4), 462-490. DOI: 10.1353/sls.2013.0015
Awards and Grants
  • An examination of function and form in the ‘what’ family of signs in American Sign Language Hou, Lynn (Principal Investigator, University of California, Santa Barbara); Lepic, Ryan (Co-PI, Gallaudet University); Wilkinson, E. (Co-PI, University of New Mexico) National Science Foundation Collaborative Award October 2022 – March 2026, (UCSB, $149,999 USD; Gallaudet, $149,999 USD; UNM, $150,000 USD)

Teaching Interests

Since 2009 when I became tenure track faculty, I have taught nine different undergraduate and graduate courses and five reading/graduate problems courses at three different institutions. At UNM, I taught three undergraduate ASL courses (Fingerspelling, ASL 3; ASL 4), one undergraduate course on Deaf Culture/Studies, two twinned undergraduate/graduate linguistics courses (Structure of ASL; Signed Language Phonology). I supervised four graduate students’ independent study courses in signed language linguistics and interpreting theory. At the University of Manitoba, I taught four unique undergraduate linguistics courses (Introduction to Linguistics, Morphology, Semantics, Structure of ASL) and five twinned undergraduate/graduate course (ASL Semantics, Lexicalization in SLs, Corpus-based research in SLs, Construction grammar in ASL, Linguistic analysis in ASL, Unimodal and Bimodal Bilingualism), and one reading course on Cognitive Linguistics. I taught signed language linguistics, bilingualism, and typology at various summer schools: Kabul, Afghanistan; Legon, Ghana; Hamburg, Germany; Leiden, the Netherlands. 

Representative Courses

  • LING 490/590 Signed Language Phonology
  • LING 519   Cognitive Linguistics
  • SIGN 2130  Fingerspelling and Numbers
  • SIGN 305   Structure of ASL
  • SIGN 320   American Signed Language IV
  • SIGN 352   Language and Culture in the Deaf Community