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University of Connecticut College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Linguistics

Diane C. Lillo-Martin

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Linguistics; Fellow, UConn Humanities Institute; Coordinator of American Sign Language studies

Education:Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Research areas:Monolingual and Bilingual First Language Acquisition, Structure and Acquisition of American Sign Language

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  • I am interested in how studies of sign languages and language acquisition in different contexts can tell us about the nature of the human capacity for language. I work with students in a variety of specialities, mainly various aspects of first-language acquisition, particularly syntax and semantics. My own research focuses on the structure and acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL). I have studied aspects of the morphology and syntax of ASL, and how Deaf children with native input acquire these aspects, including verb agreement, WH-questions, and focus. I have also studied how language acquisition is affected when input is delayed, looking at the development of ASL by deaf children whose first exposure began around the age of 5 years. Currently, I am focusing on the development of bimodal bilingualism - the acquisition of both a sign language and a spoken language. This project is in collaboration with Deborah Chen Pichler (Gallaudet University) and Ronice Müller de Quadros (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina). The international collaboration allows us to study two pairs of languages: ASL and English, and Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) and Brazilian Portuguese (BP). See our project website,, for more information.