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Provost PhD Awards

Re-defining “Success” in Transgender Communication Therapy

Transgender individuals have a gender identity different to that assigned at birth. When a person transitions gender, they may seek help from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). SLTs are experts in communication, who help transgender people to adapt their outward communication style to better fit their gender identity. This includes modifying vocal pitch, body postures, facial expressions, intonation and speech patterns. 

The widely held notion that transgender people successfully transition only if they ‘pass’ as male or female is controversial. This belief is likely shaped by societal views of a binary male and female world, into which transgender people are expected to fit. This disenfranchises transgender people and has led (non-transgender) healthcare providers to focus on interventions that aim to measurably convince naïve audiences that the trans person is really a man or woman. 

This project, led by P.I. Dr Ciarán Kenny from Trinity’s Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, will re-establish what ‘success’ means in transgender communication therapy. The output will redefine practices and provide more holistic and compassionate care for transgender individuals.


Gestural Grammar: Investigating Gesture in Southern Italy (GestuGram)

Humans communicate using not only language, but the gestures that accompany it. Gestures are movements of the hands and body often paired with speech, and emerging research suggests that they are integrated with the grammar of language. As a matter of fact, scholars interested in language from different perspectives (e.g. psychologists, psycholinguists, cognitive scientists, etc.) mostly agree that gesture and speech should both be taken into account while studying language because both convey semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic information.  Within theoretical linguistics, only formal semanticists have taken the study of gesture seriously up to now. Formal syntax, on the other hand, has to this point mostly neglected gesture, despite the interesting questions it poses for syntactic theory.

While gesture is universal, individual gestures vary across languages. For example, in Neapolitan, a particular gesture can transform a statement (e.g. Mario has a car.) into a question (e.g. Does Mario have a car?). Thus, gestures are not simply ‘ornamental’, but can make grammatical contributions akin to the syntactic strategies of e.g. English (subject-auxiliary inversion). 

Drawing from the gesture-heavy languages of southern Italy, this project, led by P.I. Dr Valentina Colasanti, aims to address the gap in the literature by developing a grammar of gesture.



Improving Clinical Trials for Oropharyngeal Dysphagia in Parkinson’s Disease – The COS-ODiPD Study

Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects approximately 7-10 million people worldwide. Associated swallowing disorders (dysphagia) can significantly affect quality of life and increase mortality. Clinical trials seeking effective treatments for dysphagia in PD are costly and trial results (outcomes) are frequently too narrow in focus, dictated by researchers’ own agendas or interests of funders and industry. Furthermore, outcomes may only be assessed at the end of an experiment with no information on longer-term adverse treatment effects. An added problem is that researchers often report only favourable study outcomes. One solution is an agreed standardised Core Outcome Set (COS)  - outcomes that should be measured and reported as a minimum for all clinical trials for dysphagia in PD. Further consensus on how to define and evaluate these outcomes is also required. The aim of this study, led by PI Dr Margaret Walshe, is to develop a COS for clinical trials for dysphagia in PD (COS-ODiPD) and to achieve consensus on how and when to measure these outcomes. This has potential to change how trials are conducted for dysphagia in PD worldwide, maximising return for research investment.




Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian and Development Contexts: Optimising Advisory Programmes for Mainstream Organisations

This interdisciplinary project led by Dr Caroline Jagoe is a collaboration between Clinical Speech & Language Studies and Geography (Development Practice) and will explore what works for disability inclusion advisory programmes, for what types of mainstream programmes, in which contexts and why?

Within the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), Article 11 (emergency relief) and Article 32 (international cooperation) place responsibilities on all development and humanitarian agencies to be inclusive of persons with disabilities. Despite increased momentum in terms of disability inclusion in recent years, international actors often see disability as a specialist technical area, rather than a normal part of human existence. Capacity building for mainstream organisations is often achieved through advocacy and advisory programmes provided by Organisations of Persons with Disabilities and disability-specific organisations. 

Uniquely, the project will be designed to explore the existing gaps in disability inclusion, and related gaps in advisory programmes, for those commonly excluded from disability-focused research in LMICs, such as those with communication disability and those with swallowing disorders.