Ladewig, Silva

I joined the Sign Language Team in September 2022 with my DFG project “Processes of stabilization in gestures. A media-specific and cross-modal approach”, which is part of the DFG Priority Programme 2329 „Visual Communication. Theoretical, Empirical, and Applied Perspectives (ViCom)“. In this project I investigate the emergent stabilization of recurrent gestures and the temporal and functional dynamics of stabilized gesture sequences. In a second step, the stabilization processes reconstructed in my studies are compared with grammaticalization and lexicalization processes of signs in DGS. The aim is to formulate a media-specific and cross-modal approach to stabilization processes in gestures and signs defining characteristics that both modalities share and those which are linguistic.

I studied German linguistics and English philology at the Free University of Berlin. Between 2006 and 2011 I was a research assistant in various interdisciplinary projects including the projects “Towards a grammar of gesture: evolution, brain, and linguistic structures” (VW foundation) and “Embodied meaning in dance and movement: emergence, languaging, therapies and education” (BMBF). Together with the research team at the European University Viadrina I organized the 4th conference of the International Society of Gesture Studies (ISGS) in Frankfurt (Oder), „Gesture, evolution, brain and linguistic structures“. In my doctoral thesis (PhD awarded 2012) I investigated the integration of gesture in spoken utterances by substitution of spoken units. My book “Integrating Gestures. The Dimension of Multimodality in Cognitive Grammar” (2020) explores the gestures’ potential to realize grammatical notions of nouns and verbs and to integrate with speech by merging into multimodal syntactic constructions. Between 2011 and 2022 I was a Post-Doc (assistant professor) at the chair for Language Use and Multimodal Communication at the European University Viadrina. I was an interim professor of this chair between 2015-2016. Teaching has always been a fundamental part of my work. Since 2009 I have taught various classes on linguistics, metaphor analysis, gesture analysis, sign language and embodiment.

Besides my teaching and research activities, I am active in the field of science communication (#wisskomm). Together with Dr. Jana Bressem, I produce the science podcast "Talking Bodies" (, create blog entries on the topic of "multimodal communication" on social media and work on a non-fiction book on the topic of "Gesture and Communication" (together with Jana Bressem).

I am interested in the embodied nature of language. For this I study multimodality from a linguistic perspective in the fields of Pragmatics, Cognitive Grammar, Cognitive Semantics and Dynamic Multimodal Communication. The functionality of recurrent gestures, which are partly conventionalized gestures and occur in both spoken in signed languages, has attracted my interested since the beginning of my research. At the University of Göttingen I have now the opportunity to further explore the repertoire of recurrent gestures of German (documented by Bressem & Müller 2013) and to compare some of these gestures to signs of DGS. Another research focus is the dynamics of multimodal meaning making (affective and semantic). This aspect is amongst other things explored in my habilitation thesis.

Silva's personal website can be found here.