Language Learning Through the Eye and Ear Webcast

Language Learning Through the Eye and EarThis Clerc Center-produced, research-based webcast is designed to increase knowledge among early interventionists. The webcast addresses how deaf and hard of hearing babies acquire language and why one should sign with babies as early as possible. Babies are busy learning language from birth, even though they may not be signing right away. From the moment they arrive, babies seek patterns in human language whether signed or spoken. This webcast will give early interventionists a foundational knowledge to engage in dialogue with parents and professionals about the neurolinguistic benefits of early exposure to visual language for all babies.

As a result of this webcast, you will be able to:

  • Explain how babies' pattern-seeking abilities help them acquire language
  • Understand how early sign language exposure benefits deaf and hard of hearing children and how this provides building blocks for social and academic engagement
  • Describe the importance of joint attention, child-directed language and rich conversation with deaf and hard of hearing babies
  • Counter common but inaccurate assumptions surrounding dual language learning in deaf and hard of hearing children with research-supported data

Download The Thematic Reference (PDF)

Presenter bio

Deborah Chen Pichler, PhD

Deborah Chen Pichler grew up in a bilingual environment, traveling frequently between the United States and Taiwan. She began her first informal studies of comparative syntax when, at the age of 12, she was hired by her local Taiwanese American Association to teach spoken Taiwanese to middle school students. Faced with the fact that she didn't know any way to write Taiwanese (there is no standardized written form), Pichler set out to elucidate the rules of Taiwanese syntax on her own. Sadly, she never progressed very far in this task, but the experience whetted her appetite for linguistics. In college, she declared biology as her major but found herself compulsively signing up for elective classes in French, German, Italian, Chinese, and American Sign Language as "diversions." Realizing at last that her interest in the structure of language far outstripped her interest (and abilities) in biology, she entered graduate school in the field of linguistics.

A member of Gallaudet University's Linguistics faculty since 2002, Pichler has taught courses on first- and second-language acquisition, comparative studies (of ASL vs. English or ASL vs. other signed systems), and generative syntax. Her research interests focus on the acquisition of ASL by deaf children and hearing bilinguals (coda children) as well as on the acquisition of ASL as a second language. She is also involved in research on the syntax of Croatian Sign Language, continuing her original interest in investigating the grammar of previously understudied languages.​


L1 acquisition of ASL by deaf children; bilingual acquisition of English and ASL by hearing children of deaf parents (codas); L2 acquisition of ASL; cross-linguistic study of sign language syntax


PhD, University of Connecticut, Linguistics

MA, University of Connecticut, Linguistics

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