Jill P. Morford


Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico Humanities, Rm. 526
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1196
(505) 277-7412 (v)
(505) 277-7414 (tty)
(505) 277-6355 (fax)

Research Interests

The central focus of my research is to inform our understanding of language acquisition by studying communication in the visual modality. Using the visual modality for one's primary mode of communication is rare among humans. Thus, it is an ideal place to gain insight into the human capacity for language. Specifically, my research program investigates (1) the effects of language input on the development of language, and (2) the effects of the visual modality on the structure and processing of language. These questions have both theoretical and applied dimensions because I address them within the context of two minority communities: deaf individuals who are signers of American Sign Language (ASL), and hearing individuals with little or no spoken language production experience due to severe speech and physical impairments (SSPI). Individuals with SSPI have typical spoken language comprehension experience, but since they are unable to speak, they use graphic symbol communication systems, called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for production.

VL2 – NSF Science of Learning Center for Visual Language & Visual Learning

In 2006 a team of researchers from across the U.S. established a collaborative, interdisciplinary research center based at Gallaudet University to investigate language and learning by deaf individuals. VL2 investigates sign language and gesture, on the one hand (no pun intended), and reading, on the other hand. These two types of visual communication are investigated as socio-cultural, behavioral and neuropsychological phenomena. The goal of VL2 is to “advance fundamentally the science of learning related to how aspects of human higher cognition are realized through one of our most central senses, vision. We especially pursue new perspectives on these learning processes through the widened vantage point of studying deaf individuals and sign language as a window into the flexibility and structure of the human mind.” VL2 is an exciting place for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty to collaborate on a wide range of research projects and consider their practical applications in the classroom.

Selected Publications

Morford, J. P., Wilkinson, E., Villwock, A., Piñar, P. & Kroll, J. F.  (2011).  When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations?  Cognition, 118 (2), 286-292.  Read

Morford, J. P. & Carlson, M. L. (2011). Sign perception and recognition in non-native signers of ASL. Language Learning & Development, 7 (2), 149-168. Read

Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., Morford, J. P., Rios, M. & Poirier, M.-A. (2010). Young children have difficulty constructing and interpreting simple utterances composed of graphic symbols. Journal of Child Language, 37, 1-26.

Morford, J. P., Grieve-Smith, A. B., MacFarlane, J., Staley, J. & Waters, G. S. (2008). Effects of language experience on the perception of American Sign Language. Cognition, 109, 41-53. Read

Trudeau, N., Sutton, A., Dagenais, E., de Broeck, S. & Morford, J. P. (2007). Construction of graphic symbol utterances by children, teenagers, and adults: The impact of structure and task demands. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 50, 1314-1329.

Adam, M., Iversen, W., Willkinson, E., & Morford, J. P. (2007). Meaning on the one and on the other hand: Iconicity in native vs. foreign signed languages. In E. Tabakowska, C. Ljungberg & O. Fischer (Eds.), Insistent Images, 209-225. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Wilcox, S. & Morford, J. P. (2007). Empirical methods in signed language research. In M. Gonzalez-Marquez, I. Mittelberg, S. Coulson, & M. J. Spivey, (Eds.), Methods in Cognitive Linguistics, 173-202. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Sutton, A., Morford, J. P., & Gallagher, T. M. (2004). Production and comprehension of graphic symbol utterances expressing complex propositions by adults who use augmentative and alternative communication systems. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25 (3), 349-371.

Morford, J.P. (2003). Grammatical development in adolescent first language learners. Linguistics, 41 (4), 681-721.

Morford, J. P. & MacFarlane, J. (2003). Frequency characteristics of American Sign Language. Sign Language Studies, 3 (2), 213-225.

Morford, J. P. (2003). Why does exposure to language matter? In T. Givón & B. Malle (Eds.), The evolution of language from pre-language, pp. 329-341. Amsterdam: Benjamins.


Spring 2013: Introduction to Psychology of Language (LING 367/567 & PSY 367)

Fall 2012: Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism (LING 568/PSY 569)
Fall 2012: Child Language (LING 460/560 & PSY 422/522)

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