I am a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. I ask this broad theoretical question in my work: how do children coordinate with their parents to communicate successfully?

My dissertation, funded by the National Science Foundation and Institute for Education Sciences, asks a broad theoretical question: how does social-pragmatic input in addition to linguistic input contribute to language development? Traditionally, researchers have mostly looked at how children acquire words and their meanings, focusing on the child’s linguistic input. However, social-communicative motivations could also strongly influence and interact with children’s language development.

Learners’ motivation to use these cues could vary depending on how much conventional, symbolic linguistic input they receive. To find such variations in children’s linguistic and social input, I study deaf and hearing children. Most deaf children are born to hearing parents who do not know a signed language, so they often learn language at different ages and in different social environments. In absence of linguistic input, they may be motivated to use other types of social, communicative input from their parents. One social-pragmatic communicative cue I focus on in my research is non-arbitrary and non-conventional forms, such as transparent pointing and gestures. To empirically ask this question, I ask whether parents and children rely on this social-communicative tool – iconicity and indexicality – for communication.

I answer my questions by studying gesture, homesign, and signed and spoken languages. I primarily work with Susan Goldin-Meadow, Diane Brentari, and Howard Nusbaum.

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