Terra Edwards

Published on the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA) website

IPrA's INNOVATION AWARD was recently established to recognize recent exceptionally innovative work in the field of linguistic pragmatics, broadly conceived as the (interdisciplinary) science of language use.

The IPrA Consultation Board decided that the first recipient will be Terra Edwards, for her ground-breaking work on the tactile communication in Deaf Blind communities.

Terra Edwards has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley, and has held posts at Gallaudet and Saint Louis University. She is since 2021 Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago.

Edwards’ work has been focused on a new, tactile language which emerged out of a socio-political movement among DeafBlind people in Seattle, Washington. This language is called “Protactile” and involves the physical co-production of individual words using units rooted in touch and proprioception. The phenomenon is described in her new book Going Tactile: Life at the Limits of Language (2024, OUP). She has also published foundational work on the phonological and deictic systems of this language as well as the pragmatic and sociolinguistic processes that undergird them. 

The whole phenomenon attests to the robustness of the human urge to communicate and the flexibility and adaptability in terms of how it is realized. She receives the IPrA Innovation Award for drawing academic attention to the phenomenon, for her sensitive exploration of DeafBlind communities, and her scientific discoveries in this field.