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Deanna Gagne

Assistant Professor
Department of Linguistics

Deanna Gagne

Secondary Location

SLCC 3217

Office Hours

Online office hours: Mondays 4:30 - 6:00; Tuesdays 2:00 - 3:00; Thursdays 3:15 - 4:30; and by appointment. Use to find my availability and book a time, or email me!

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 individually: 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 in a language community: the ways in which the context with adults as models and children as peers influence the way that a child in that context learns language.  I work primarily in sign environments, considering the varying ways in which deaf or hearing children learn and develop a sign language and its relation to their cognitive development.

As a natively-exposed trilingual (ASL, 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.  

I do this by studying the language of Deaf and hearing individuals in the United States, Nicaragua and other countries whose sign languages may have recently emerged or are still emerging. My methodologies include behavioral tasks, linguistic elicitation, and eye-tracking as a measure of implicit processing. 

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)

My research focuses on two central themes:

1) The unique experiences of using visual languages and the particular effects the visual modality has on language structures and on the cognition-language interface.

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

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:

Theory of Mind and Language

Effects of having linguistic peers on language evolution

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 space for the expression of set/subset relationships


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002