November 1, 2020
Introducing NEW PT and English Vocabulary!
Image description: John Lee Clark (white male with short brown hair, wearing business attire) and Jelica Nuccio (white female with long curly dark brown hair pulled in a low ponytail, sunglasses, and business attire) sit facing one another. Their right legs are connected from knee to hip, and they are engaged in conversation using Protactile language. The title is printed in large white words at the top and bottom of the image and says, "Protactile Linguistics: Discussing recent research findings, by Jelica Nuccio and John Lee Clark.
The DBI Module Series is an online, on-demand, asynchronous module series focusing on DeafBlind interpreting and the culture and linguistics of protactile language, brought to you by the DeafBlind Interpreting National Training & Resource Center.
DBI Module 5:
Protactile Linguistics: Discussing Recent Findings
Worth 0.1 PS CEUs
Worth 1.0 CRC CE Units
Whether you are an interpreter, interpreter educator, VR professional, or in a related field, if you’ve worked with DeafBlind folks in the last dozen years, it’s likely you’ve heard about “PT, PTASL, Pro-Tactile, protactile... ” Protactile began in 2007 in Seattle as a socio-cultural movement and since then, has been growing and diversifying across DeafBlind communities in the United States. As that process unfolds, patterns in how DeafBlind people interact and communicate have changed, and a new, tactile language has emerged, which is "distinct from ASL.” (Clark, 2020). DBI, the DeafBlind interpreter training grant has collaborated on this video project to feature this research that explains how DeafBlind Protactile speakers in the United States intuitively arrived at linguistic conventions such as grammar and phonology.
Dr. Terra Edwards, a linguistic anthropologist at Saint Louis University and Dr. Diane Brentari, a linguist at the University of Chicago, are currently studying the structure of protactile language and have confirmed what many DeafBlind people already suspected: Protactile language has its own unique linguistic structure. This module includes the first-ever discussion of these research findings, presented in protactile language by Protactile experts Jelica Nuccio and John Lee Clark. Nuccio and Clark explain how it is spoken in what they call “contact space” as opposed to the “air space” used among sign languages and how Protactile, unlike sign languages, make use of four linguistic hands, or “articulators.” They also break down the four phonological categories involved in Protactile’s most established vocabulary, spatial constructions or what they call “proprioceptive constructions.”

These findings, as presented here concurrently with the publication of Drs. Edwards and Brentari’s published English article, to be featured in the December (2020) issue of Language, the flagship journal of the Linguistic Society of America, constitute a historic moment, and Nuccio and Clark close with some speculations on the impact the research will have on things such as the quality of life of DeafBlind people and a paradigm shift in the education of DeafBlind children.

"We are so excited to share this video with you! It makes several histories at once, and took many months to lovingly edit, translate, and caption. Why all that effort for one video? Because we believe it’s worth it, and I hope you agree! This video shows REAL Protactile and may be good for you to watch many, many, many times, just to observe the details of how the language is spoken.

The paper makes the first formal claim that Protactile is a language. We already knew that—it’s old news! But research is different and slow to catch up. It finally caught up to that simple fact. It is here now, the analyzed data and scientific explanation. It means the year 2020 is history for Protactile linguistics. The year 1960 was the watershed moment for ASL linguistics, when Stokoe made the first formal argument within the field of linguistics. For Protactile, the similar event is here, now, December 2020.
It has the potential to cause many ripples in many areas. It will cause an earthquake in the linguistics field." - John Lee Clark 

Module #5 Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to:
  • Name the four types of units in spatial constructions in PT.
  • Identify which of the four articulators usually produces each type of unit. 
  • Discuss the relationship between the four-handed articulatory system of PT and the move from air space to contact space.

Presenters: Jelica Nuccio & John Lee Clark

Jelica Nuccio is originally from Croatia and lives in Monmouth, OR. She has been very active in the DeafBlind community since she moved from Atlanta, Georgia in 1997. Jelica was the first DeafBlind Director of the Seattle Deaf-Blind Service Center (DBSC) and also a co-author of a curriculum for DeafBlind people getting the most out of their Support Service Providers (SSP). She is currently the founder of Tactile Communications which is the training center based on protactile philosophy and DeafBlind Education. Currently she is the Director for the Protactile Research Network - Pacific Northwest region. Prior to this work, Jelica worked in various positions as a research coordinator, advocate and job-developer. Jelica has a B.A. in Biology from RIT in Rochester, and an M.A. in Public Health from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past 30 years, she has been active in the local and national DeafBlind communities.

John Lee Clark is a DeafBlind poet, essayist, translator, historian, and Protactile researcher and educator based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The author or editor of three books, he is a Disability Futures Fellow and the recipient of a National Magazine Award. His writings have appeared in diverse publications, including American Poetry Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, and Sign Language Studies. Among his many roles within the Protactile movement is as core team member of DeafBlind Interpreting National Training and Resource Center and as regional director of research activities (Midwest) with Saint Louis University, which include projects studying Protactile phonology, technology, and language acquisition.
More about the DBI Module Series:

What is a module? A 60-75 minute online workshop
Who should take it? Interpreters, VR Professionals, Interpreter Educators, Students         
Where? Online, via free Moodle account
When? Anytime*** (see info about CEUs below)
How much does it cost? It's free!
***CEUs: Module 5 is worth 0.1 CEUs in the category of Professional Studies.
***CRC CEs: Module 5 is also available for 1.0 CRC CE Units!
In order to receive CEUs, you will be required to complete pre- and post-tests. Upon completion of each module's post-test, an automatic certificate of completion will be generated and sent to the participant. That will serve as documentation until CEUs are processed. CEUs will be submitted to RID quarterly. Please hold any questions about CEUs until after the end of the quarter. The quarters DBI follows are January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December.

CEUs are processed by the DeafBlind Interpreting National Training & Resource Center, an approved RID CMP and ACET sponsor.

Registration is FREE and includes access to all future public training content on the DBI Moodle site. If you have previously registered for a DBI module or webinar, you just need to login to view this module.
The goals for the DBI Module Series are:
  • to increase the knowledge base, skills and training opportunities for working sign language interpreters
  • to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the DeafBlind community
  • to provide current content related to DeafBlind interpreting for interpreters and interpreter educators
  • to increase the pool of qualified interpreters and vocational rehabilitation professionals working with DeafBlind consumers
DBI envisions a world that celebrates the life and culture of DeafBlind persons, a world where DeafBlind people have influence and control over their destiny and dreams.

The mission of DBI is to honor the diversity and range of communication preferences of DeafBlind individuals, or those who have a combination of vision and hearing loss, by increasing the range and number of culturally-competent and qualified interpreters and mentors.

Among many others, DBI holds these core values as it conducts its work:

Autonomy: We are committed to supporting the autonomy of DeafBlind individuals and those with a combination of vision and hearing loss.

Integrity: We value the integrity of our relationship with the DeafBlind community through the life of the grant and beyond.

Collaboration: We recognize the key to creating change is engaging in active collaboration with our mentors, community partners, stakeholders and service providers.

Humanity: We work to honor our collective humanity and respect the DeafBlind’s community’s culture.

Results: We believe in the strength of evidence-based practices and that without evaluation, effectiveness and impact cannot be measured or assumed.

Trust: We believe that the DeafBlind Community’s language is unique and are honored to be entrusted by the DeafBlind community and RSA to carry out this important work and take this responsibility very seriously.

Stewardship: We recognize the fiscal and programmatic responsibility given to us by our funders and are committed to ethical and responsible practices in all we do.
The contents of this communication were developed under a grant that began on January 3, 2017, and will continue through December 31, 2021. The project is made possible through a grant from the US Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, H160D160005; Training of Interpreters for Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind program (CFDA 84.160D): Interpreter Training in Specialty Areas. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.