Graduate Students

Amanda Brown Natalie Dowling Rebecca Frausel Casey Hall
Laura Horton Jenny Lu Sharon Seegers James Waller



Amanda Brown

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. 



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.



Rebecca Frausel

My research is about the role of the early home environment, specifically parental language input, on children's later educational outcomes. I study how parents and children vary in their use of decontextualized speech (especially narrative and pretend speech), and how these individual differences could have large downstream impacts on children's later ability to create narratives and use academic language. I am also interested in how parents and children use higher-order thinking across different discourse modes.



Casey Hall

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. 



Laura Horton

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.



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.



Sharon Seegers



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.