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Ronnie Wilbur

Ronnie Wilbur

Professor // Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

Professor // Linguistics // SIS

Professor // SIS

Research focus:
Sign Language

Office and Contact

Room: Lyles-Porter


B.A., Linguistics, University of Rochester, 1969
Ph.D., Linguistics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1973



American Sign Language, prosody-syntax-pragmatics interface, language and deafness

Dr. Ronnie Wilbur investigates the structure of American Sign Language (ASL).  Her teaching responsibilities include courses in general linguistics (syntax), the linguistic structure of American Sign Language and language, deafness, and bilingualism. She is the editor-in-chief of the journal Sign Language & Linguistics. She is also Director of the Purdue Linguistics Program.

Dr. Wilbur's research approaches language problems from a variety of perspectives.  She has investigated literacy problems of school-age deaf children, and she has studied the acquisition of sign language.  Her current research investigates the interaction of ASL sentence structure with event structure and discourse/pragmatic functions. Nonmanual markers, such as blinks, brow raises, and head nods, are investigated to determine how they contribute to the syntax and semantics of sign languages. With Dr. Avi Kak, Electrical and Computer Engineering, she has an NSF project using robot-vision techniques to perform automatic sign recognition. With Dr. Aleix Martinez, Ohio State Electrical Engineering, she has an NIH project investigating functions of and automatic recognition of nonmanuals in ASL. She also directs an NSF project investigating crosslinguistic sign language structures with Croatian and Austrian sign languages. A final project with Professor Nicoletta Adamo-Villani, Computer Graphics Technology, is developing ASL-based software for education of deaf children in mathematics.