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Ted Supalla
-PhD, University of California at San Diego, 1982
-Associate Professor, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Linguistics, and ASL
-Director, Program in American Sign Language and the Sign Language Research Center

My research involves three main lines of work. First, I am interested in universals of language, including the comparison between spoken languages and signed languages, as well as the similarities and differences among sign languages themselves.

Second, I am interested in how sign languages are formed. Part of this work examines the continuum from nonlinguistic gesture to gestural language, comparing gesture as used by hearing people, "home sign" systems devised within families who have deaf members, and full sign languages such as ASL, to determine where and how linguistic properties appear in the evolution from nonlinguistic to linguistic use of the same modalities.

Third, I am interested in the on-line processing of ASL, including studies of sentence comprehension and memory as well as fMRI studies asking what parts of the brain are activated during visual-gestural language processing.

My primary faculty appointment is with the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.  I also direct the American Sign Language Program at the University of Rochester.  For further details got to the Brain and Cognitive Sciences website at

Elissa Newport
-PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1975
-George Eastman Professor, Brain & Cognitive Sciences and Linguistics
-Chair, Brain & Cognitive Sciences

My primary research interest is in the acquisition of language, and in the relationship between language acquisition and language structure.

A second line of research concerns maturational effects on language learning, comparing children to adults as first and second language learners, and asking why children, who are more limited in most cognitive domains, perform better than adults in language acquisition. These studies involve the acquisition of signed and spoken languages at varying ages. Finally, a long-term interest concerns understanding why languages universally display certain types of structures, and considers whether constraints on pattern learning in children may provide part of the basis for universal regularities in languages of the world.

My primary faculty appointment is with the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.  For further details got to the Brain and Cognitive Sciences website at

Betsy Hicks McDonald
-PhD University of Buffalo, 1981
-Research Associate

I assist Professor Supalla in cross-linguistic research on ASL and other signed and spoken languages. In addition, I am interested in pedagogical techniques in bilingual education.  Previously, I designed and taught English-language courses with Deaf students. In this context, I designed accessible techniques for natural acquisition of English academic vocabulary.  Within the SLRC research program, the exploration of historical trends in ASL pedagogy, polyglossia and metalanguage relate to this interest.  My current professional interests include ASL dialectology and historical and regional dialects of ASL.

Patricia Clark
-M.A., Linguistics, University of Colorado, 1984
- Research Assistant
- Designated Interpreter, American Sign Language

I fill dual roles in the SLRC assisting Professor Supalla in collecting, analyzing, and organizing historical ASL documents at times that I am not serving as his designated interpreter.  One result of this historical work is a book co-authored with Professor Supalla on the historical roots of ASL.

In addition to transcribing, analyzing, and creating data sets of early films and written texts of “The Sign Language” made around the turn of the 20th century, I have been interested in analyzing a number of translations from that collection for the principles and processes in use at that time.  A better understanding of the metalanguage of early ASL translators, I believe, can inform the field of sign language interpretation and translation today.

I also serve as adjunct faculty in the American Sign Language Program at the University of Rochester where I train and mentor students interested in translation and in the field of interpreting.

Don Metlay
-ABD, University of Chicago
-MA, Gallaudet College, 1985
-Lab Tech
-Web Developer
I assist Professor Ted Supalla in linguistic analyses of "home-grown" sign languages and design and develop various language-related interactive multimedia projects. In particular, we are creating a multimedia database of historic ASL based on books and films. We also develop stimuli (both pictures and video) to elicit signs and grammar from signers for cross-linguistic studies. In addition, my work includes assisting graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and staff members by creating and editing video stimuli for their experimental work on language acquisition, creolization, grammaticalization and plasticity in language.



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