I study language development with a focus on processing limitations at different levels, the neurobiological basis, and the effects on typical and atypical learning. How do early language experience during a critical time window shape the highly efficient neural network for language processing? What are the processing limitations for people with early language deprivation when they access lexical items and combine words to form simple phrases, and how do these limitations compare with those faced by younger children, aphasic patients, and children with specific language impairment? What neurobiological foundations, caused by either biological immaturity, decreased plasticity, brain injure, or genetic defects, reflect those limitations? How would those processing limitations at the basic combinatory level affect the processing and learning of more complex linguistic structures? What makes such learning possible for young children, but not for older L1 learners? These are the questions I kept asking in my research.
Currently my research is focused on the role of early language experience by studying rare cases who suffer from early language deprivation. I have been looking at the longitudinal development (word order) and ultimate attainment (SVO, comprehension) of American Sign Language (ASL) syntactic structures by people who are deaf and had very limited early language exposure. I’m also exploring the anatomical differences as a result of early language deprivation (language pathways, visual regions).