Robert Skinner

Published: 3 November 2016

British Sign Language & video-mediated interpreting: Proximity in police settings

Heriot-Watt University

British Sign Language & video-mediated interpreting: Proximity in police settings

Academic History:

Oct 2016 - 2020 PhD Languages


Professor Jemina Napier (Head of Languages & Intercultural Studies, Heriot-Watt University)

Professor Nick Fyfe (Director, Scottish Institute for Policing Research, University of Dundee)

John Brownlie, SignVideo

Stephanie Rose, Police Scotland

Research Interests:

My research interests fall within two broad themes signed language interpreting & signed language processing studies. More specifically, my research interests have led me to look at the use of audio-video technology to disseminate sign language interpreting services (such as the Insign project explained below), interpreting for live television broadcast, & how aspects of signed languages are processed in the human brain.

Previous Research Projects:

In 2007 I began to develop my research experience at Birkbeck College after completing an MA in Applied Linguistics. For my thesis I conducted a typological study of British Sign Language (BSL) number variation in the UK. My research documented four distinct BSL number systems & several sub-categories. This research led me on to working as a Researcher & in-house interpreter for the Deafness Cognition & Language (DCAL) Research Centre, at University College London ( During my time at DCAL I worked closely with Gabriella Vigliocco’s lab on a series of sign language processing studies investigating the effects of iconicity (the imagistic properties of sign), for more information click here: As an interpreter at DCAL I worked alongside deaf academics in in neurology (Deaf Brain project), language development (BSL McArthur Bates CDI), sign linguistics & the BSL Corpus project. In 2009, whilst at DCAL, I completed an MSc Research Methods in Experimental Psychology. For my thesis I developed a phonological decision paradigm where participants were required to recognise if a signed moved up or down. The study found a facilitation effect when the up/down movement itself was iconic. The research contributes to the embodied theory of language processing.

More recently, I pursued my research interests in relation to sign language interpreting & been employed as a Research Associate on a number of research projects led by Prof Napier at Heriot-Watt University.  

  1. The Insign project (funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Justice, Dec 2013-Dec 2014) examined the viability of a pan-European multi sign language video-mediated interpreting & remote captioning service to enable the political participation of Deaf European citizens. This project has led to several publications submitted or in preparation.
  2. The Justisigns project (funded by the European Commission Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning programme, Dec 2013-June 2016), is a pan-European project investigating the provision of interpreting services within investigative interviews mediated by a sign language interpreter. One book chapter has been submitted, & several more articles are planned, which will include me as a co-author.
  3. The Translating the Deaf Self project (funded by a Research Innovation Grant from the AHRC under the Translating Cultures theme, Jan 2015-July 2016), which investigates the impact of always being translated on the development of a Deaf person's identity & their well-being. Several articles are planned, which will include me as a co-author.


Vinson, D., Thompson, R., Skinner, R., Fox, N., Vigliocco, G. (2009). The Hands & Mouth Do Not Always Slip Together in British Sign Language: Dissociating Articulatory Channels in the Lexicon. Proceedings of the 31st Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. 

Vinson, D. P., Thompson, R. L., Skinner, R., Fox, N., Vigliocco, G. (2010). The hands & mouth do not always slip together in British sign language: dissociating articulatory channels in the lexicon. Psychological Science 21(8), 1158-1167 

Pollitt, K., Beck, J., Dunipace, H., Lee, S., McShane, C., Roberts, E., Rowan, S., Skinner, R., Schembri, A. & Turner, G. H. (2012). 'Well, it's green here, but I've seen green & green, & my mother's was always green': Initial issues & insights from translating the BSL Corpus. Developing the interpreter, developing the profession: Proceedings of the ASLI Conference 2010 . Dickinson, J. & Stone, C. (eds.). Coleford: Douglas McLean, p. 80-94 14 p.

Vinson, D., Thompson, R., Skinner, R., & Vigliocco, G. (2015). A faster path between meaning & form? Iconicity facilitates sign recognition & production in British Sign Language. Journal Memory & Language, 82, 56-85.

Leeson, L., Napier, J., Skinner, R., Lynch, T., Venturi, L. & Sheikh, H. (in press). Research with deaf sign language users:  Action research in bilingual-bimodal legal contexts. In H. Rose & J. McKinley (Eds.), Doing real research in applied linguistics. London: Routledge.

Turner, G. H., Napier, J, Skinner, R. & Wheatley, M. (in press). Telecommunication relay services as a tool for deaf political participation & citizenship. Information, Communication & Society.

Napier, J., Skinner, R., & Braun, S. (in prep). (Eds.). Here or there? Research on video mediated interpreting. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Napier, J., Skinner, R., & Turner, G. H. (submitted). “Its good for them but not for me”: Inside the interpreter’s call centre. International Journal of Translation & Interpreting Research.

First published: 3 November 2016