Deanna Gagne

Assistant Professor
Language, Education & Society

Deanna Gagne


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Secondary Location

SLCC 3217

Office Hours

Spring 2021: please email for an appointment

[PhotoID: Deanna Gagne: Deanna is Latina with gently round cheeks, dark brown eyes and dark shoulder-length hair that's not quite pin straight yet not quite wavy. She is smiling softly at the camera. She is wearing a dark top and a silver-grey scarf.  Behind her, the outline of a chalkboard and some frames on the wall are slightly out of focus.]

Bio: I received my PhD from the University of Connecticut in Developmental Psychology with certificates in the Neurobiology of Language and the Cognitive Sciences.  My research focuses on the ways in which children acquire or develop language and the ways that varying language experiences relates to cognitive development.  This could be on an individual basis, such as the way that children learn and influence the language they are learning, or, in the case of homesigning children, the ways in which they create language without having had a language model.  This also could be within a language community, such as the ways in which the language context, for example, adults as models or other children as peers influence the way that a child learns language.  I have worked primarily in sign language environments, considering the ways in which deaf and/or hearing children learn and evolve a sign language and its relation to their cognitive development, but I am also applying what I've learned to a new language context and modality, protactile language and DeafBlind children. 

As a natively-exposed bimodal-trilingual (American Sign Language, Spanish, and English), I am interested in the ways that children acquire more than one language and how the amount and type of exposure to any single language may influence acquisition.  

My approaches engage individuals in the United States, Nicaragua, and other places where sign or tactile languages may have recently emerged or are still emerging. 

Current CV

Fall 2018: 

Phonology 1 (LIN 701)

Introduction to First and Second Language Acquisition (LIN 510)

Spring 2019:

Special Topics: Emerging and Village Sign Languages (LIN 595)

Sign Languages and Sign Systems (LIN 101)

Special Topic: Heritage Languages (LIN 799)

Fall 2019

Phonology 1 (LIN 701)

Sign Languages and Sign Systems (LIN 101)

Spring 2020:

Psycholinguistics of Sign Languages (LIN 522)

Sign Languages and Sign Systems (LIN 101)

Fall 2020:

Phonology 1 (LIN 701)

Linguistics Research Experience (LIN 480)

Spring 2021:

Linguistics Proseminar (LIN 703)

Special Topic: Languages on a small scale: Emergence, Ecology, and Evolution (LIN 595)

Deanna sits next to a child whose face is off-screen.  She is smiling and holding up both hands to indicate two small, but equal sizes (using "G or Q" handshapes).  The child is turned toward her and imitating the handshapes.  Behind them is a concrete-brick wall painted blue, the child is wearing a Nicaraguan school uniform (white button down shirt and dark blue pants).

My research focuses on two central themes:

1) The ways in which language is acquired and may change over time depending on socio-linguistic and socio-cognitive influences in children' environments.

2) The unique experiences of using languages in modalities other than the spoken/aural modality and the particular effects these modalities have on language structure and on the cognition-language interface.

These two themes have driven my participation in several research projects which have capitalized on my interdisciplinary background at the juncture of linguistics, psychology and cognitive neuroscience:

  • The acquisition of Protactile language by DeafBlind children
  • Theory of Mind and Language
  • The effects of (not) having linguistic peers on language evolution
  • The emergence of linguistic structures in Nicaraguan Sign Language
  • Bimodal Bilinguals and the ways their multimodality informs our understanding of language and cognition
  • Use of vertical signing space for the expression of set/subset relationships


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002