Why the FZG was founded

At the time of the founding of the FZG in 1982, not only was there little to no academic research on the local Swiss languages, but the whole idea that sign language is a 'real' language was quite foreign. Almost all of the Swiss German institutions that had to do with the schooling or further education of deaf children or training of teachers for these schools were opposed to the use of sign language. An exclusively 'oral' approach reigned, which involved teaching the Deaf child to speak and lipread German and did not tolerate signing in the classroom, as the ideology of the day was this would deflect the child from learning the spoken language. Even the regional Deaf Association, in its initial efforts at the time to support a signed form of communication, spoke of 'signing' but not of 'sign language'. The private nonprofit FZG was thus founded to begin research on sign language, research which was not possible at official, existing institutions or organizations.

Early Support of the FZG

The very first research study done by the FZG (comparing dialects of DSGS) was financed by an association of biologists in Basel. However, there were fortunately also several other persons who were excited about and willing to support the idea of researching sign language. Several formed an association in 1983, expressly to support the new FZG. Several years later, the association changed its name to offer broader support to sign language research in general and is known today as the 'Verein zur Unterstützung der Gebärdensprache', VUGS. While the limited financial resources of this association couldn't support large scale research projects, it did fund some smaller projects. Its major contribution, besides important moral support, was the annual publication of an information series which reported on research done by the FZG as well as on sign language research and signing culture in general. Throughout the years, the FZG has also received valuable advice and support from research colleagues within Switzerland and abroad, especially  François Grosjean (University of Neuchatel), Siegmund Prillwitz (Hamburg University), and Gudula List (Cologne University).

Collaboration with other institutions

Small research studies (for example, on dialects in Swiss German Sign Language, on gestures used by orchestra conductors, on 'co-speech' gestures used by hearing speakers, etc.) have been privately funded by the FZG. Other projects have been carried out in collaboration with colleagues at other European institutions (Rome, Bristol).

The first larger project was funded by a Swiss Science Foundation grant (Schweizerischer Nationalfonds, SNF) to the FZG (Boyes Braem 1995). Subsequent larger projects, particularly those funded by the SNF have been carried out in collaboration with the Heilpädagogische Seminar in Zürich (now Hochschule für Heilpädagogik Zürich) as well as with the Swiss Deaf Association (SGB-FSS). In 2011, the FZG began a collaboration with the Institute for Computer Linguistics at the University of Zürich and since 2012 has been 'associate member' of the Zurich Competency Center for Linguistics (Zürcher Kompetenzzentrum Linguistik, ZüKL of the University of Zürich.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

We wish to acknowledge some of the principal supporters of FZG's activities over the last three decades:

The association VUGS has not only made many publications possible and helped to finance infrastructure, but has also made financial contributions to continuing HamNoSys notation of signs in the iLex-CH lexicon as well as making it possible by a donation in its final year to the task of adding more annotated signs texts to the iLex-CH corpus. From the beginning, the association and its members have provided important moral support for our sign language research.

Several institutions have been important in the funding of many FZG projects, including the Swiss Science Foundation and the Max Bircher Foundation.

We are also grateful for the readiness for collaboration from the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich (HfH), as well as from the Zurich Competence Center for Linguistics (ZüKL) of the University of Zurich.

Finally, we are grateful to the persons who have financially and morally supported the work of the FZG on a private and anonymous basis

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