Earlier today, the MacArthur Fellowship announced that Dr. Carol Padden (COL ’78) won one of its $500,000 “genius grants” for her groundbreaking work in the field of signed language linguistics.
Padden, who is the first deaf MacArthur Fellow, studies the distinct structure and evolutionary patterns of signed languages. Among other accomplishments, Padden’s research revealed that signed communication tends to have its own “vocabulary, syntax, and grammar” that relies not on visual space, but how signers use that space.
Her work on Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, for example, provided insight about the fundamental elements of language.
After studying linguistics as an undergrad at Georgetown, Padden earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, where she now works as the Associate Dean of the Division of Social Sciences.
The MacArthur Fellowship awards half-million dollar grants to those who demonstrate exceptional creativity and innovation in quarterly payments over five years. While the grants come without obligation, the MacArthur Foundation considers “promise for important future advances” during its anonymous selection process.
While Padden has no plans for the grant money yet, she expects to use it for creative research.
“Maybe I have a few wild ideas I’ve been obsessing about,” she said in an interview with SignOnSanDiego.com. “But they’re a little bit crazy. I’m not going to tell you about them until I can make them sound a little more rational.”
Photo: MacArthur Foundation