Alert: See University Status for more information

Jeffrey E. Davis, PhD

Professor, University of Tennessee
Sign Language Linguistics and Interpretation

Educational Interpreter Program
Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
A218 Jane and David Bailey Education Complex
1122 Volunteer Boulevard
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-3442

Phone: 865-974-0427
Fax: 865-974-8718

Jeffrey has worked as an interpreter, teacher, and researcher in the fields of sign language linguistics and interpretation for the past three decades. He holds Master's and PhD degrees in Linguistics and joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee in 2000. He served on the faculties of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC (1987 - 1990), University of Arizona (1990 - 1994) and Miami-Dade College (1994 - 2000). Since the 1990s, during his post-doc in Arizona, he has conducted extensive fieldwork and studied the historical and contemporary use of signed language among American Indian communities and nations. He served as a team leader on the National Multicultural Interpreting Project (1995 - 2000). Dr. Davis has been principal investigator on several major research grants - FIPSE, NEH, NSF (i.e., more than $750,000 awarded since 2000); primary author for more than 25 scholarly, peer-reviewed publications; and more than one-dozen national/international presentations. He has been invited to give presentations or to be a plenary speaker at numerous regional, national, or international meetings. Since being awarded the PhD in 1990, Dr. Davis has submitted more than 20 grants (15 of these have been funded-totaling nearly one million dollars). In 2007 he was awarded a prestigious tri-agency NEH-NSF-Smithsonian research fellowship. In collaboration with the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, he developed a digital language archive of linguistic texts, descriptions, illustrations, and films of Indian Sign Language:

Davis has a long history of community collaboration and ethnographic fieldwork involving Deaf individuals and American Indian communities. For the past two-years the NSF has funded his summer 2009 – summer 2010 fieldwork to document American Indian Sign Language; and his research project involves and trains undergraduate and graduate students in linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork; sign language documentation and linguistic analysis; and, interpretation and translation using state of the art multimedia technologies. Most recently, Davis was sole author of a major book published by the Linguistics Division of Cambridge University Press (2010); and, co-edited/co-authored Sign Language Interpreting in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts; Studies in Interpretation, Volume 7 in a research series from Gallaudet University Press (2010). Since 2010 he has been working with members of the Deaf and interpreting  community in Trinidad & Tobago to develop the first program for sign language interpreters in that country. He is currently mentoring three doctoral students in conducting action research and ethnographic fieldwork (including Folami Ford, doctoral student, Gallaudet U.)

Current Research:

"The Evaluation and Training of SLI in Trinidad and Tobago" with Dr. Kimberly Wolbers and intern Folami Ford

Abstract: The majority of current sign language interpreters in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) does not have formal training in the profession and does not hold qualification or certification as an interpreter. At this point, there is no interpreter training program and no interpreter association that evaluates and qualifies individuals. This proposal articulates a plan for the immediate evaluation, training and qualification of acting interpreters in the field. At the same time, the proposed plan actively involves T&T stakeholders, interpreter leaders and members of the Deaf community to develop greater capacity among persons of T&T to achieve long-term objectives for training and evaluation of interpreters.


Wolbers, K., & Davis, J. (2010). Proposal for immediate evaluation and training of active sign language interpreters in Trinidad & Tobago. Project proposal, Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Recent Publications (2005 & 2011)

Discourse in Signed Languages; Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities, Volume 17 (pp. 179 – 217).Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Davis, J. (2010). Hand talk:  Sign Language among American Indian Nations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McKee, R., & Davis, J. (Eds.) (2010). Sign Language Interpreting in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts; Studies in Interpretation, Volume 7. Research Series from Gallaudet University Press.

Davis, J., & McKay-Cody, M. (2010). Signed languages and American Indian communities: Considerations for  interpreting work and research. In R. McKee, & J. Davis (Eds.), Sign Language Interpreting in Multilingual, Multicultural Contexts; Studies in Interpretation, Volume 7. Gallaudet University Press.
Davis, J. (2007). North American Indian signed language varieties: A comparative linguistic assessment. In David Quinto-Pozos (Ed.). Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities, 13, (pp. 85 – 122). Gallaudet University Press.
Davis, J. (2006). A historical linguistic account of Sign Language among North American Indians. In C. Lucas  (Ed.), Multilingualism and Sign Languages: From the Great Plains to Australia (pp. 3 – 35). Gallaudet  University Press.
Davis, J. (2005). Code choices and consequences: Implications for educational interpreting. In M. Marschark, et al (Eds.), Educational Interpreting: From Research to Practice (pp. 112 – 141). Oxford University Press.
Davis, J. (2005). Teaching observation techniques to interpreters.  In C. Roy (Series Ed.), Advances in Teaching Sign Language Interpreters Series, Vol. 1 (pp. 22 – 48). Gallaudet University Press.

About Gallaudet
2014 Presidential Search
Campus Photos
Clerc Center
Contact Us
Employment Opportunities
Fast Facts
Make an Online Gift
Maps & Directions
Media Inquiries
University Communications
Visitors Center
English Language Institute
Financial Aid
Graduate Admissions
Graduate Orientation
International Admissions
Professional Studies
Test Center
Undergraduate Admissions
Academics & Research
Archives/Deaf Collections
Career Center
Catalog & Course Info
General Studies
Graduate Programs
Honors Program
Office of Academic Quality
Professional Studies
Registrar's Office
Research Support and International Affairs
Undergraduate Majors
Campus Life
Bison Shop (bookstore)
Campus Activities
Food Services
Public Safety
Residence Life and Housing
Washington, D.C.
Tools & Resources
Campus Directory
Daily Digest
Help Desk
Gallaudet Alert-subscribe
GU Press
Kellogg Conference Hotel
Maps & Directions
People @ Gallaudet
Shuttle Bus
Gallaudet University | 800 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002
Copyright © 2014 Gallaudet University