Some deaf people cannot effortlessly acquire a spoken language in the way that hearing people can. The majority of these deaf children are born to hearing parents who frequently do not know sign language. By studying the experiences of people who grow up in linguistically impoverished environments, I aim to address two broad questions:
- What consequences do deaf children face as a result of impoverished linguistic input?
- What is the human language faculty capable of in the absence of linguistic input?
Consequences of Impoverished Linguistic Input
Delayed acquisition of language has consequences for a number of cognitive domains. In my work, I focus on the relationship between language and two of these domains.
- When language acquisition is delayed by even a handful of years, it limits the child’s ability to become fully proficient in their language.
- Children who learn language late also hit social cognitive milestones late.
The Language Faculty Without Linguistic Input
Sometimes, when there is a concentration of deaf people who do not have access to signed or spoken language, they will develop their own sign language from scratch. In 2013, my colleagues and I discovered one such sign language, which we have called Central Taurus Sign Language (CTSL). By studying this language we can better understand what humans are capable of without the influence of a rich linguistic history.