Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Goldin-Meadow, Susan J.
Location The University of Chicago
Primary Field Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
 Election Citation
Goldin-Meadow's breakthrough work on language-creation in deaf children not able to learn spoken language, and not exposed to sign language, demonstrates how human minds shape language.
 Research Interests
Goldin-Meadow's research focuses on the most basic building blocks of language and thought as they are developed in early childhood. She studies deaf children who have not been exposed to usable input from either a spoken or signed language. These children nevertheless create their own gesture systems, and those gestures are structured like natural language. Her research has thus uncovered linguistic components so fundamental to language that they will arise in a child's communication system even if that child has no access to linguistic input. Goldin-Meadow has also studied the spontaneous gestures learners, both hearing and deaf, produce when they talk or sign, and has discovered that these gestures can reveal the learner's readiness-to-learn language, math, and scientific concepts. Spontaneous gesture thus offers a privileged window onto thought, often conveying knowledge that the gesturer is unable to express in speech. Among Goldin-Meadow's numerous research findings are that blind children, who have never seen anyone gesture, move their hands when they talk. These congenitally blind children not only gesture, but their gestures look just like the gestures sighted children produce when they talk, a finding that highlights the robustness of gesture and its tight relation to speech. Goldin-Meadow is also the principal investigator of the Language Development Project, a longitudinal study funded since 2002 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The goal of the project is to explore the extent and limits of the language-learning process in 60 typically developing children and 40 children with pre- or post-natal brain injury.

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