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 Penny Boyes Braem completed her MA at Harvard University and her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley with Dan I. Slobin and Ursula Bellugi (Salk Institute) as advisors. For her MA thesis, she did one of the first studies of the acquisition of the handshape in ASL (Boyes Braem 1990b). Her doctoral dissertation looked at the issue of iconicity by analyzing iconic metaphors and metonyms underlying conventionalized ASL signs (Boyes Braem 1980).

 Since 1974, Boyes Braem has lived in Switzerland. From 1982-86, she was director of the first sign language interpreter training program in the country (for Swiss French Sign Language in Lausanne/Geneva). In 1982, she founded the FZG in Basel, through which in the following years she has done studies of several aspects of Swiss German Sign Language and of hearing persons' gestures, often in collaboration with colleagues and institutions from Switzerland as well as from Italy, Germany and England. From 2000 – 2007, Boyes Braem was the founding director of GS-Media (Zurich), a private association which developed CD-ROMS and books documenting Swiss German Sign Language (See Bibliography). From 1993 – 2010, Boyes Braem was a board member of the Verein zur Unterstützung der Gebärdensprache, VUGS (Zürich). In 2014, Dr. Boyes Braem received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Zürich.

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