DFG Priority Programme 2329
ViCom investigates the special features and linguistic significance of visual communication. This comprises sign languages as fully developed natural languages which exclusively
rely on the visual channel for communication, but also visual means that enhance spoken language such as gestures. It aims at disclosing the specific characteristics of the visual modality as a communication channel and its interaction with other channels
(especially the auditory channel) to develop a comprehensive theoretical linguistic model
of human communication and its cognitive foundations.
Kathryn Barnes: ideophones in German
Goethe University: Kathryn Barnes investigates ideophones in German
(The report is in German)
Newest ViCom-related publications
Żygis, M., & Fuchs, S. (2023). Communicative constraints affect oro-facial gestures and acoustics: Whispered vs normal speech. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 153(1), 613–626. https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0015251 (pdf)
DGfS-Workshop on creativity and routine in linguistic feedback (from Project GeSi)
March 8—10, 2023
University of Cologne
Call for proposals for short term collaborations
In January 2023, the ViCom central has issued a call for proposals for short term collaborations.
The priority program can provide funds for six collaborative research activities between ViCom projects and for three research activities between ViCom members and external partners. The duration of these collaborations is up to four weeks and is particularly intended to be used for lab visits of early career researchers. These short-term collaborations can complement the ongoing work of the individual projects, to establish new internal and external collaborations and foster interactions with researchers not directly connected with ViCom. In additon, the short-term visits aim at providing additional experience and training for early career researchers, to give them the opportunity to build up a research network and establish new research activities.
Each short collaboration team should consist of at least two ViCom projects (for the internal collaborations), or one ViCom project and one external partner (for the external collaborations). Results of these collaborations will be presented at the next possible annual ViCom workshops after the collaboration has achieved presentable results. In addition, the results of the collaborations will be documented on the ViCom website. ViCom projects can apply for financial support (especially for early career researchers and external partners), to help implement the activity. Travel and accommodation costs can be covered up to 1.500.- euro for each short term collaboration.
Details on how and when to apply were sent by email to every ViCom member, and questions regarding these matters can be sent to the project manager at:
After the deadline (15th of March, 2023), the steering committee will discuss the applications and award the collaborations by the end of March. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
Call for project video descriptions
The priority program ViCom aims to present and explain its scientific questions and research methods to the public as early as possible. To this end, ViCom’s central project issued a call for short video descriptions of all ViCom project on January 18th, 2023. These video descriptions are expected to be available at some time after April 1st, 2023, and will summarize each project’s approach in concise, and easy to understand manner.
Tips, tricks, and help with any technical, organisational or data privacy-related questions can be found in the materials sent to all ViCom members and inquiries regarding these matters can be sent to:
Report on ViCom’s kickoff meeting (November 2022)
November 16—18, 2022
Am Wingertsberg 4, 61348 Bad Homburg vor der Höhe
The languages of the workshop were English and ASL/IS. Interpretation between English and ASL/IS was provided.
After the Multimodal Revolution
by Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; New York University)
Abstract: The ViCom project is one of the most striking results of a recent ‘multimodal revolution’ in linguistics: sign languages on the one hand and gestures on the other are now getting integrated to all aspects of linguistic research. I’ll discuss three challenges for this program. One pertains to the theoretical integration of iconic and logical phenomena in language. In particular, can explicit Logical Forms be offered that combine a logical and an iconic component? The second challenge pertains to the sign/gesture connection. Goldin-Meadow and Brentari 2017 famously argued that sign with iconicity should be compared to speech with gestures rather than to speech alone. Some commonalities between signs and gestures are definitely due to iconicity, but others (e.g. pointing) might have a grammatical source. A full understanding of these commonalities has yet to be obtained. The third challenge pertains to the situation of gestures within language: are they fully integrated by virtue of being ‘first class citizens of the linguistic world’, or does language have a productive way to integrate diverse visual forms, including non-linguistic ones such as pictures and visual animations?
Workshop on legal issues
by Pawel Kamocki (IDS Mannheim)
Abstract: Visual communication data are affected by numerous legal issues, ranging from intellectual property rights to personal data protection. Collecting, managing and sharing such data requires some understanding of the key concepts of copyright and related rights, the GDPR, as well as FAIR and Open Science standards. Acquiring such knowledge is not an easy task, given that the relevant fields of law are constantly evolving to adapt to technological developments and user expectations. The workshop will provide an introduction to legal issues affecting visual communication data in the European Union, taking into account recent and upcoming law reforms. The speaker is a researcher trained in both IT law and linguistics, and has over a decade of experience with handling legal issues in language data.
Workshop on the ViCom data network organized
by Aleksandra Ćwiek, Susanne Fuchs & Wim Pouw (ViCom FLESH project)
Abstract: The need for and importance of open science principles has been particularly increasing over the course of last years. Open science practices are open access to research output, computational reproducibility of research, and the sharing of data as much as possible. In this session, we want to familiarize you with our ideas for the creation of an OA audiovisual database. ViCom is undoubtedly a data-rich priority programme that provides a unique opportunity of collecting in one place a multitude of data types with various methodological backgrounds. The ViCom consortium also harbors a great deal of intellectual capital that could enrich datasets collected by individual projects through collaboration between projects. An open database will allow for safely sharing data, having protocols in place to be “as open as possible as closed as necessary,” and it would allow a fertile ground to forge a collaborative network within ViCom. Furthermore, it ensures that the resources invested in ViCom projects will yield maximal utility, as our data, scripts, and annotation methods can be reused within and outside ViCom for many years to come. During our session, we would like to pitch to you a general idea for this database, including a proposal of the infrastructure. We would like to encourage a discussion of possible challenges that may be unique to a particular subfield and how we could overcome them together, for example by showing you some tools for data anonymization. Most importantly we would like to provide an infrastructure that will foster collaborative science and inspire you to collaborate on creating this database
Report on ViCom’s kickoff meeting, November 2022
From November 16th to 18th, the first annual ViCom meeting kicked off our Priority Program, ViCom. Set at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg, the meeting started with a brief introduction of the new priority program by the two coordinators, Cornelia Ebert and Markus Steinbach, and welcome notes by Prof. Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Director of the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften), Ulrich Schielein (CIO Goethe University), Prof. Rembert Hüser (Dean of the Faculty of Modern Languages) and Dr. Helga Weyerts-Schweda (Program Director of the German Research Foundation, DFG). Afterwards, all 19 projects presented their research topics and methodologies. The pretty long day was ceremoniously concluded with a reception at the Forschungskolleg, which offered the opportunity to continue the discussion in an informal setting. At the end of the day, all participants walked away with the impression that ViCom offers an enormous breadth of topics, and an impressive line-up of projects.
The second day started with a plenary presentation of ViCom measures implemented to support collaboration and exchange.
Afterwards, the project members split up into working groups tackling various aspects of the priority program. At the end of constructive discussions in the working groups, not only did we know what people are planning to do in the first phase – but, in addition, we had already developed a good idea as to how to proceed and support each other to reach common goals. The second day was concluded with an inspiring plenary presentation on the multimodal revolution in linguistics, given by our first Mercator Fellow, Philippe Schlenker.
Two more workshops were scheduled for the third day. While the first workshop discussed legal issues related to multimodal data, the second workshop introduced the ViCom Data Network and ethical aspects of empirical studies in the field of visual communication. Furthermore, the constitutive meeting of ViCom’s steering committee took place. The members of the steering committee discussed, among other things, how the central project can support ViCom projects to cooperate across the distances between our cities, to apply for funding for workshops, to apply for funding relating to gender, family, and mental health issues and to present their results in a uniform way, to sharpen ViCom’s profile.
All in all, we could not have wished for a nicer and more stimulating meeting, nor a better start for ViCom altogether. We would sincerely like to thank all participants for their great work, and for the great atmosphere (work-related and otherwise) that so many of us already happily commented on during our days in Bad Homburg. Thank you all!
Cornelia, Markus & Volker
For ViCom’s first phase (September 1, 2022 – August 31, 2025), the DFG has approved of 20 projects which investigate visual communication phenomena in 3 basic dimensions: (a) theoretical, (b) empirical, and (c) applied. All projects are organised in at least one of 6 project clusters corresponding to the different research objects relevant for ViCom: (1) gesture, (2) sign language, (3) visual studies, (4) animal communication, (5) didactic and clinical aspects and language acquisition, and (6) human-computer interaction systems.