Graduate Students

Natalie Dowling

Natalie Dowling

I am interested in the development of discourse, higher-order thinking, and pragmatic language skills between early childhood and middle childhood, and how early success in these skills may be predictors of later educational outcomes and the transition into adulthood. In particular, I am interested in examining the function of gesture as an indicator of discursive skill and potentially a tool to bolster these aspects of language development.

Email: nataliegenz@uchicago.edu

Casey Ferrara

Casey Ferrara

I am interested in the intersection of language and cognition and exploring their overlap through studying sign and spoken language development, the role of gesture in sign vs. spoken languages, variability in language outcomes, and the effects of early linguistic environment on cognition.

Email: caseyferrara@uchicago.edu

Yağmur Deniz Kısa

Yağmur Deniz Kısa

I am interested in how people use space for thinking and communicating. One line of my work explores why people gesture when they speak and think. Another line of my work focuses on the experiential origins of spatial concepts and how spatial concepts come to structure much of abstract thought. I’m also interested in how basic aspects of visual experience may differ across ages, cultures, and history.

Email: ykisa@uchicago.edu

Jenny Lu

Jenny Lu

How do we define gesture and language? Gesture is generally understood as conveying imagistic, gradient information, while language is seen as categorical, but it is often not easy to classify forms in either speech or sign as exclusively conveying gradient vs. categorical information. For example, speakers can convey gradient information in speech as well as on their hands. I ask where categorical and gradient information is conveyed in spoken and sign languages and how these forms work together in face-to-face communication.

I am also interested in exploring social-cognitive and environmental factors that may shape young homesigners’ language creation. I investigate this question by studying deaf and hearing infants, using eyetracking and behavioral methods.

Email: jennylu@uchicago.edu

James Waller

James Waller

I am interested in exploring the question ‘What constitutes language?’ through looking at the interaction of linguistic and pseudo-linguistic systems in sign languages (such as the use of gesture, depiction, and fingerspelling within ASL). I am also interested in approaching this question from the perspective of language creativity both within children and adults when they acquire or create new modes of communication.

Email: jmwaller@uchicago.edu