What is multimodal language development?

We create, learn, and use language across sensory-motor modalities. Speakers talk and gesture. Listeners watch and listen. Signers sign and gesture. Signers watch and comprehend. Everyone reads written language visually. In our laboratory, we ask how language develops across these sensory-motor modalities in relation to childhood language experience. Our studies investigate four main areas:

The critical (sensitive) period for language development

For over 200 years, educators and scientists have believed that children are better language learners than teens or adults. Our research asks whether and how an asynchrony between brain growth and the onset of language development affects the adult ability to comprehend and express language. We have discovered the sensitive period for language is most critical for first language development and less so for second language learning.
Mayberry, 1993;
Mayberry, Lock & Kazmi, 2002; Mayberry & Lock, 2003

Currently we are investigating the language development and processing of deaf individuals who first learn language at a late age.
Ferjan Ramirez, Lieberman & Mayberry, 2013
Davidson & Mayberry, 2015
Lieberman et al., 2014

The critical (sensitive) period and neurolinguistic processing

Research over the past two decades has found that the human brain networks responsible for spoken language are also responsible for sign language. We have recently discovered that a lack of language development in early life alters how the adolescent and adult brain processes sign language.
Mayberry et al., 2011
Penicaud et al., 2013
Ferjan Ramirez, Leonard, Torres, Hatrak, Halgren & Mayberry, 2013
Leonard, Ferjan Ramirez, Torres, Travis, Hatrak, Mayberry & Halgren, 2012

Reading development in signers who are deaf

One long-standing controversy in reading development is whether sign language development can support reading development and whether the ability to associate speech sounds with written letters is necessary to read proficiently. We have found that sign language proficiency is highly related to reading proficiency. We further found that phonological decoding ability plays a small role in the reading proficiency of deaf readers who sign.
Chamberlain C. & Mayberry R.I., 2008
Mayberry, del Giudice, & Lieberman, 2011
Bélanger, Baum & Mayberry, 2012
Bélanger, Slattery, Mayberry & Rayner, 2012

The relation between gesture and spoken language

Spontaneous gesture is tightly coupled with spontaneous speech in adults. We discovered that when adults experience severe disfluencies, as in chronic stuttering, their gestures pause in midair, or are retracted, until their speech regains fluency.
Mayberry, Jaques & DeDe, 1998; Mayberry & Shenker, 1997

We also found that young children’s gesture development is tightly linked to their spoken language development. Young children learning two languages from birth gesture in a more sophisticated fashion when speaking their more developed language compared to their less developed one.
Nicoladis, Mayberry & Genesee, 1999

More recently we have investigated the relation of children's iconic gestures to sound symbolic words in Japanese speaking bilingual children, and how word order is created when hearing adults are asked to only gesture.
Zvaigzne, M., et al (July 2014).
Hall, Mayberry & Ferreira, 2014; Hall, Ferreria & Mayberry, 2014