I am interested in the mechanisms of spontaneous gestures and how people use their bodies to represent aspects of their experiences. My current projects explore how gesture compares to action and perception using motion capture technology. With sensitive tools such as motion capture I hope to understand how the body encodes information from what we see and do for thinking and learning. I am also interested in the phenomenon of pretend and narrative across the lifespan.
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.
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.
I am interested in how acquiring language impacts children’s mathematical reasoning abilities. Additionally, I am curious about the role of gesture in learning and how it can be used as an educational tool for improving children’s understanding of fundamental math concepts.
I am interested in the relationship between language, culture and thought. I investigate this relationship through the lens of sign languages, homesign systems and language acquisition. My current projects include work on a sign language typology project, an investigation of the morphophonological status of movement in American Sign Language, and fieldwork in Guatemala, where I am collecting data from families with multiple generations of homesigners.
I am interested in the interplay between mind, body and culture.
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.
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.