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Ann Senghas

Ph.D.,Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995 [curriculum vitae]

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Barnard College of Columbia University [department]

Director, Language Acquisition and Development Laboratory [lab website]

Contact Information
Language Acquisition and Development Research Lab
Department of Psychology
Milbank 415G
Barnard College
3009 Broadway
New York, New York 10027-6598

office:(212) 854-0115
lab:(212) 854-2056
fax:(212) 854-3601
tty:(212) 854-0257
email:asenghas@barnard.edu
Topics

language acquisition, cognitive development, language evolution, historical linguistics, gesture

Interests

Ann Senghas studies how learners create ordered systems from disordered input, particularly in the realm of language acquisition. She is interested in how this ability changes with age, and also how it shapes languages over time. Her current research examines the emergence of grammatical structure in a new sign language being created by a generation of deaf children and adolescents in Nicaragua.

Background

Prof. Senghas completed her BA at Smith College in 1986, and her PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT in 1995. Her dissertation examined the emergence of grammatical structure in a new sign language being created by a generation of deaf children in Nicaragua. She then continued this work within two postdoctoral positions, the first at the Sign Language Research Center at the University of Rochester, and the second at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. In 1999, she began in her present position at Barnard, which includes both research and teaching responsibilities. She and members of her laboratory spend 6 weeks each summer in Nicaragua, videotaping the signing of deaf children and adults, in order to document and analyze their continually changing young language.

Projects (see more information on these in the lab site)
  • How gestures become signs.
  • The emergence of number signs in NSL.
  • The emergence of a Bedouin sign language.
  • Expressions of manner and path in Spanish Sign Language.
  • Representing spatial concepts with a spatial language.
  • The emergence of a vocabulary.
  • Word order and argument structure.
Selected Papers

Senghas, A., and D. Roman (in press). La Comunidad Sorda de Nicaragua y su Idioma: Lo que hemos Aprendido de ellos [The Nicaraguan Deaf Community and its Language: What we have learned from them].  (Edited volume).  London/Managua: Leonard Cheshire International.

Senghas, A. (in press). ¿De dónde surgió el Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua? [Where did Nicaraguan Sign Language come from?]  To appear in A. Senghas and D. Roman, (Eds.), La Comunidad Sorda de Nicaragua y su Idioma: Lo que hemos Aprendido de ellos. London/Managua: Leonard Cheshire International.

Pyers, J. E., and A. Senghas (in press). Referential shift in Nicaraguan Sign Language: A comparison with American Sign Language.  To appear in P. Perniss, R. Pfau, and M. Steinbach, (Eds.), Visible variation: Comparative studies on sign language structure. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Senghas, A., S. Kita, and A. Özyürek (in press). Children creating core properties of language: evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. To appear in K. Lindgren, D. DeLuca, B. Reynolds, and D. J. Napoli (Eds.), Signs and Voices. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press. [Reprint of Senghas et al., 2004]

Senghas, A. (2005). Language emergence: Clues from a new Bedouin sign language.  Current Biology, 15:12, 463-465. [pdf]

Senghas, A., S. Kita, and A. Özyürek (2005). Linguaggio e evoluzione: I bambini sordi del Nicaragua mostrano come nasce una lingua. Darwin, 2:8, 88-96. [Includes Italian translation of Senghas et al. 2004, with additional text and graphics].

Senghas, A., A. Özyürek, and S. Kita (2005). Language emergence in vitro or in vivo? Response to comment on “Children creating core properties of language: evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua.” Science, 309: 5731, 56.

Senghas, A., S. Kita, and A. Özyürek (2004). Children creating core properties of language: evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. Science, 305: 5691, 1779-1782.

Senghas, R. J., A. Senghas, and J. E. Pyers (2005) The emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language: Questions of development, acquisition, and evolution In J. Langer, S. T. Parker, & C. Milbrath (Eds.), Biology and Knowledge revisited: From neurogenesis to psychogenesis. Mahwah, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.[pdf]

Senghas, R. J., A. Senghas, and J. E. Pyers In press The emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language: Questions of development, acquisition, and evolution In J. Langer, S. T. Parker, & C. Milbrath (Eds.), Biology and Knowledge revisited: From neurogenesis to psychogenesis. Mahwah, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Senghas, A 2003Intergenerational influence and ontogenetic development in the emergence of spatial grammar in Nicaraguan Sign Language Cognitive Development, 18, 511-531. [pdf]

Senghas, A., A. Ozyürek, and S. Kita 2002Encoding motion events in an emerging sign language: From Nicaraguan gestures to Nicaraguan signs In A. Baker, B. van den Bogaerde & O. Crasborn (Eds.) Cross-linguistic perspectives in sign language research. Selected papers from TISLR 2000. Hamburg Signum Press.

Saffran, J. R., A. Senghas, and J. C. Trueswell 2001The acquisition of language by children Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98: 23, 12874-12875. [pdf]

Senghas, A 2001Spatial and temporal coding of Nicaraguan Sign Language in MediaTagger: Documenting three dimensions with a two-dimensional tool Sign Language and Linguistics, 4: 1/2, 229-240

Senghas, A., and M. Coppola 2001Children creating language: How Nicaraguan Sign Language acquired a spatial grammar Psychological Science, 12, 4: 323-328. [pdf]

Senghas, A 2000The development of early spatial morphology in Nicaraguan Sign Language In S. C. Howell, S. A. Fish, and T. Keith-Lucas, (Eds.), BUCLD 24: Proceedings of the 24th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston Cascadilla Press, 696-707. [pdf]

Kegl, J., A. Senghas, and M. Coppola 1999Creation through contact: Sign language emergence and sign language change in Nicaragua In M. DeGraff, (Ed.), Language Creation and Language Change: Creolization, Diachrony, and Development. Cambridge MIT Press, 179-237.

Senghas, A 1995Children’s contribution to the birth of Nicaraguan Sign Language Ph.D. dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Distributed by MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.

Senghas, A 1995Conventionalization in the first generation: a community acquires a language USD Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, 6, Spring, 1995.

Senghas, A 1995The development of Nicaraguan Sign Language via the language acquisition process In D. MacLaughlin & S. McEwen (Eds.), BUCLD 19: Proceedings of the 19th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston Cascadilla Press, 543-552. [pdf]

Teaching

PSYC BC 1001:  Introduction to Psychology [syllabus]

PSYC BC 1127:  Developmental Psychology with lab [syllabus]

PSYC BC 1129:  Developmental Psychology without lab [syllabus]

PSYC BC 3369:  Language Development (undergraduate seminar) [syllabus]

PSYC G 4272:  Advanced Seminar in Language Development (graduate seminar) [syllabus] [syllabus]