Deanna Gagne

Assistant Professor
Language, Education & Culture

Deanna Gagne


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Secondary Location

SLCC 3217

Office Hours

Spring 2021: please email for an appointment

[PhotoID: Deanna Gagne: Deanna is a Latina with round cheeks, dark brown eyes and straight shoulder-length dark brown hair.  She is smiling softly. She is wearing a dark shirt 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 relate to cognitive development.  This could be individually, foe example in the way that children learn and modify the language they are learning, or, in the case of homesigning children, the ways in which they create language.  This also could be within a language community, highlighting the ways in which language contexts influence a child's language-learning experiences.

I have worked primarily in sign language environments, considering the ways in which deaf and/or hearing children learn and evolve sign languages and how that relates to their cognitive development.  I am also now 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 in more than one modality 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

You may contact me at: deanna (dot) gagne (at) gallaudet (dot) edu

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)

Fall 2021:

Phonology 1 (LIN 701)

Linguistics Research Experience (LIN 480)

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).

Dr. Gagne is the director of the MAC (Multimodality, Acquisition, Cognition) lab at Gallaudet University.  Housed in the Linguistics department, we investigate questions that intersect the disciplines of multimodal communication, age of acquisition, and its impact on cognition.  We have a website in development- check back soon!


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, capitalizing 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