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Personal profile


Graham H. Turner joined the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies as Professor and Director of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland in October 2005, succeeding Emeritus Professor Ian Mason as Chair of Translation & Interpreting Studies. Having initially engaged with British Sign Language (BSL) as a classroom assistant at Northern Counties School for the Deaf in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1985 (and with a background in French, Greek, Latin, Swahili and Swedish), his first academic appointment was as Research Assistant, and then Fellow, at Durham University's Deaf Studies Research Unit from 1988-1995. Graham was Lecturer/Senior Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire from 1995 until his appointment at Heriot-Watt in 2005.

Graham served as Director of Research in the School of Managament & Languages from 2009 to 2013 and was appointed to a Beltane Public Engagement Fellowship in 2014. He has edited international journals in Deaf Studies and in Translation & Interpreting Studies, and is a former elected Hon Secretary of the British Association for Applied Linguistics. Graham is the longest-serving member of the British Sign Language & Linguistic Access Working Group established by the Scottish Government, participating since its inception, and a member of the Scottish Council on Deafness management committee. He has advised the Scottish Government's Equality Unit and Parliament's Education & Culture Committee on BSL issues, and has a long history of invited expert input to the British Deaf Association, Signature and other key bodies.

Research interests

Graham's research focuses on language in society, with special reference to interpreting studies and to British Sign Language (BSL). In well over 200 publications and presentations over the last 21 years, supported by ESF, ESRC, Leverhulme and others, he has pursued issues of social and applied linguistics centred upon the nature of signed language, and the linguistic identity of its users. 

Graham's early work on the first BSL/English dictionary (published by Faber&Faber in 1992) led to an appreciation of the representation of meaning in BSL, and of the complex communicative relationship between spoken and signed languages. That relationship is most acute in the work of interpreters whose task is to facilitate interaction across this linguistic divide. In numerous outputs since the 1990s, therefore, Graham has investigated the role of the interpreter as a co-constructor of meaning, presenting keynote and invited papers at international conferences around the world. Since the inclusion of his work in the seminal Interpreting Studies Reader (edited by Franz Poechhacker and Miriam Shlesinger for Routledge in 2001), the broader significance of Graham's contribution to interpreting studies has been recognised across international spoken and signed contexts. 

Sign language policy and planning have also been a sustained focus of interest throughout Graham's academic career. Beginning with his first published output in 1994 ('How Is Deaf Culture? Another Perspective on a Fundamental Concept'), Graham has explored key questions regarding optimising the protection and promotion of signing communities, and the significance of language for Deaf citizenship. Alongside this research, as Editor of the journal Deaf Worlds and instigator of two groundbreaking Deaf Nation Symposia, he has since the late 1990s made a significant contribution to substantiating and strengthening a fresh paradigm in global thinking on sign language, ushering in the 'Deaf Gain' analyses of the 21st century.

Graham supervises PhD students in a full range of interpreting, translation and social/applied language studies fields, including those working with BSL, International Signing and other national signed languages (eg American Sign Language [ASL] and Chinese Sign Language), and with spoken languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Polish and Spanish.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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