Language Development Project
The Language Development Project is a longitudinal study that has received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development since 2002. Its main research goal is to explore the extent and the limits of the language-learning process in young children. Two groups of families are enrolled in this longitudinal study: (1) a group of roughly 60 families with a child who was developing typically at entry into the study and (2) a group of 40 families with a child who had suffered a unilateral brain lesion in the pre- or perinatal period. Children and their caregivers participate in a primarily observational study of parent-child interaction in the early, pre-school years. Beginning in kindergarten, children complete tasks and assessments of language, reading, and other cognitive skills necessary for success in school. Along with traditional measures, we examine children's use of gesture during language learning and in more complex spoken language tasks given during the elementary school years. We also use fMRI techniques to assess the brain bases of language and reading competence.
My research focuses on language acquisition and gradience in grammar, centering on the interrelationships between phonology, morphology, and the lexicon. Within the language project I am focusing on phonological complexity in child and child-directed speech over the course of the first 5 years of life, and on how phonological relationships between words in the lexicon impact the learning of individual words. I am also working on measures of lexical richness in child and caregiver speech. My other interests include bilingualism and second language acquisition. I have worked on the processing of polymorphemic words in first and second language Spanish and the impact of such processing on Spanish morphophonology, as well as on the relationship between manual gesture and the cognitive consequences of bilingualism.
My research interests center on the evolution of language and the cognitive antecedents to language. I am particularly interested in the relationship between gestural and vocal communication on both evolutionary and ontogenetic timelines. My current work explores the relationship between gesture and speech in child language acquisition, and examines the role gesture plays as language moves beyond the 2-word stage and complex grammatical constructions begin to emerge. My previous research involved the study of gestural communication and social cognition in orangutans. By combining results from both lines of inquiry, I hope to identify cognitive and communicative structures that exist prior to the development of full-blown language.
Özlem Ece Demir
My research focuses on the mechanisms behind children's language development, particularly narrative and reading development. In order to get a more complete picture of these mechanisms, I explore how development proceeds in different learners (in typically-developing children, blind children and children with early unilateral brain injury) and in different environments (in different cultures, e.g. the USA, Turkey, China, and in different environments within a given culture, e.g. different home environments). In my research I combine multiple methodologies. I focus on not only children's speech, but also their gestures, and uses both behavioral and neuroimaging measures.
My primary role in the longitudinal language project is to analyze the MRI data on the children with unilateral lesions acquired early in life who are participating in the Language Project. I have also developed a storytelling task to evaluate the development of narrative skills in typically developing children compared to children with early brain injury.
Sam graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2008 with a BA in Cognitive Science. Sam joined the Language Development Project in July of 2008 where she works with children with early brain injury. Sam is interested in understanding the nature of normal cognition by studying patterns in cases of early brain injury. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Cognitive Science or a related discipline.
Natalie grew up in Vero Beach, Florida before receiving her BA in Linguistics from the University of Chicago in the Spring of 2010. She began working as a coding RA for the Language Development Project shortly before finishing her undergraduate studies. Natalie is interested in communication disorders and plans to pursue a PhD in the field.
Max began his studies at Pennsylvania State University, transferring to the University of Chicago before his second year. After spending his third year studying at the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany, he returned to the University of Chicago to receive his BA in Linguistics in 2007. He was exposed to the field of developmental psychology during that last year, when he took a course sequence on the mind which included talks from Susan Goldin-Meadow and Susan Levine. Max has transcribed visits and coded syntax with the Language Development Project since May 2008, and hopes someday to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology or psycholinguistics.
Katherine grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Psychology in 2010. She has been interested in children’s language development in general, and children’s reading development in specific for many years. She wrote her honors thesis using data from the LDP to study the interaction between parental characteristics and later child reading outcomes. Katherine hopes to pursue a career that incorporates this interest and allows her to continue to study and interact with children.
Ryan graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Psychology in 2009 and from the University of Chicago with an M.A. in Social Science in 2010. Ryan began working as a visit RA for the Language Development Project shortly after graduation. His Master’s thesis focused on children’s development of justice attitudes, but he is also interested generally in language acquisition. In the future, he hopes to pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology.
Galila graduated from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem with a BA in psychology in 1992. She has an MA in learning disabilities from Northwestern University and an MA in developmental psychology from the Hebrew University. Her Master's thesis focused on the acquisition of verb morphology in Hebrew. She currently works for the Language Development Project as a gesture coder.
Kristin grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. She graduated from Boston University in 2006 with a B.A in Linguistics. For the two years following, she devoted her time to writing, reading, working, cooking, and furthering some psychology coursework and research. She now works full-time as a syntax-coder on the Language Development Project. She plans to pursue a PhD program in Linguistics at some point with focus on the syntax-semantics interface and pragmatics.
Kristin graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008 with a BA in Psychology. There, she studied early language development with Professor Nameera Akhtar. Kristin is responsible for coding gestures of the typically developing children and children with early brain injury. Her research interests primarily lie in social factors that contribute to language acquisition, as well as social factors that contribute to academic success. Kristin hopes to pursue a career in developmental or school psychology.
Ashley Drake, University of Chicago, Department of Human Comparative Development
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