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The 27th International AFRILEX Conference: Keynote Speakers

International Keynote:

Prof Myriam Vermeerbergen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belguim


Bio: Myriam Vermeerbergen is Professor of (Sign) Linguistics at KU Leuven (Belgium), where she and her deaf colleagues have established a unique academic teaching programme in Flemish Sign Language (VGT) and VGT interpreting. In the early 1990s, Myriam pioneered sign language research in Flanders, Belgium, and in 1996 she obtained a PhD with a thesis on morpho-syntactic aspects of VGT. As a post-doctoral researcher, she continued her work on the grammar of VGT and also studied the similarities between the grammars of different sign languages (including South African Sign Language) and between sign languages and other forms of gestural communication. She spent several months in South Africa, researching “homesigning”, the gestural form of communication used by deaf people who have not acquire or learnt a full-fledged spoken or signed language. As one of the few sign language experts in Flanders, Myriam has been involved in a wide range of studies on different aspects of sign languages and Deaf communities, including research on sign language teaching, sign language interpreting and sociolinguistic and lexicographical research (resulting in the first digital bilingual dictionary of Flemish Sign Language ( Currently, Myriam is also a PI in the European Horizon2020 project SignON ( Myriam is co-founder and former chairperson of the Flemish Sign Language Centre, recognised by the Flemish Government as a “knowledge and coordination centre for Flemish Sign Language” ( and the current vice-chair of the Advisory Committee on Flemish Sign Language.

Keynote title: Sign language lexicography : A snapshot of past, present and future approaches, activities and techniques (Click here to download abstract)

African Keynote: 


Prof Thapelo Otlogetswe, University of Botswana, Botswana


Bio: Thapelo J Otlogetswe is a professor of Linguistics and Lexicography and a recipient of the Presidential Order of Honour (PH) being an honour awarded for efficient and devoted service to the Republic of Botswana. Between 2019-2020 he was a Fulbright visiting professor in the Linguistics Department of the University of California, Davis. His principal areas of interest are corpus linguistics and lexicography. Much of his research is in lexical computing, corpus lexicography, onomastics, rhyming patterns, genre and text type analysis. He has been involved in the development of Setswana spellcheckers and the compilation of a multi-million token Setswana corpus. He has also compiled a number of dictionaries including Tlhalosi ya Medi ya Setswana, English-Setswana Dictionary, Oxford English Setswana Setswana English School Dictionary and Poeletso-medumo ya Setswana: a Setswana Rhyming dictionary. He has led the breakthrough translation work on the Setswana Google Search, OpenOffice and Firefox Setswana Spell-checkers. He is a member of the African Association of Lexicography and of the African Academy of Languages ─ which is a languages arm of the African Union. He also sits on the editorial boards of multiple academic journals.

Keynote title: Making African dictionaries African (Click here to download abstract)

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