University of London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group – Language

The University of London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group: ‘Language’

The programme for the next meeting of the University of London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group has now been finalised. Details are below and can also be found on our website. Please email Susie Christensen ( if you would like to be added to the mailing list for this group.

Monday 23rd January 2012, 5-7pm in K3.11 Raked Lecture Theatre, King’s College London, King’s Building, Strand Campus, Strand, London

On 23rd January we will meet for the third time to discuss the topic of language. Our three speakers will address this topic from their respective disciplinary and professional backgrounds.  Each speaker will present for 20 minutes and then there will be an hour for questions and general discussion on this topic both in relation to the papers presented and with regards to the work of others present. This will also be a chance to reflect on interdisciplinarity in general and how the combination of these three papers enriches our understanding of the topic ‘language’


Laura Salisbury, Lecturer in English, Birkbeck College and RCUK Fellow in Science, Technology and Culture

Oiwi Parker Jones, Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL and at Wolfson College, Oxford

Helena Ballard, Teacher of the Deaf and associate of Life and Deaf

More Information on the speakers

Helena Ballard

Helena Ballard is an Advisory Teacher of the Deaf in Greenwich. Much of her current focus is on work with families who have newly diagnosed babies and small children, although she also goes into mainstream schools to support hearing impaired children and the staff who work with them.   A French graduate and lover of music, she came late to the field of deafness and to British Sign Language, both of which she finds fascinating.  Life and Deaf has been an important and stimulating addition for the past five years.

Life and Deaf started in a secondary mainstream unit for deaf students in Greenwich and came from a poetry project school-wide.  Working with specialist Speech and Language Therapists, Jane Thomas and Katie Martin, the deaf students  explored their identities through the medium of poetry, producing such powerful and rich work that a beautifully illustrated book of their poems was produced, accompanied by a DVD of the young poets speaking or signing their poetry. The aims of the project included the exploration of the beauty of language but also its power in allowing access to difficult or unexplored emotions which might affect mental health.  At a launch subsequently it became apparent that the students, their friends and families were so motivated and positively affected by the whole process that there were lasting and important benefits.  As a result the Life and Deaf Association was formed and the project was rolled out nationwide, with a web-site, a workbook to encourage wider participation and many other activities.  Life and Deaf 2 will culminate in a launch on the South Bank in March 2012.

She will be discussing he work teaching deaf children and Life and Deaf, and what these two things contribute to our understanding of language.

Oiwi Parker Jones

Oiwi Parker Jones is a linguist and neuroscientist whose research focuses on models of language in healthy and damaged brains, particularly in bilingual populations. He is particularly interested in (1) how multiple languages are represented in a single brain and (2) how bilinguals recover each language after brain damage due to cancer or stroke. His research uses a variety of methods, including anatomical and functional neuroimaging and dynamic network-based modelling. Other areas of research include the neuroscience of reading and sign-language, as well as topics in general linguistics, such as language documentation and activism (especially of endangered and Eastern Polynesian languages)."

He will be talking about his various investigations into language.

Laura Salisbury

Laura Salisbury is author of Samuel Beckett: Laughing Matters, Comic Timing (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and co-editor of Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800-1950). She has published a number of essays on aphasia and literary modernism and her major current research project is a book-length study of the relationship between modernism, modernity, and early twentieth-century neuroscientific conceptions of language. Other forthcoming work includes co-editing a volume called Kittler Now (Polity), co-editing a special issue of Medical Humanities on the topic of 'Beckett and the Brain', and writing a chapter on narratives of the brain in contemporary British Fiction for The Decades Project: International Perspectives on Contemporary British Fiction (Continuum).

She will talk about these aspects of her work in relation to the topic of language.