Jill Morford

My research investigates language acquisition and processing in the visual modality. In particular, I am interested in (1) bilingualism in the Deaf community, (2) the effects of language input on the development of language processing skills, and (3) the effects of the visual modality on the structure and processing of language. I collaborate with departmental colleagues and graduate students on studies of minority language acquisition in the Lobo Language Acquisition Lab.

Educational History

  • 1993 Ph.D., Psychology, University of Chicago; Dissertation: Creating the Language of Thought: The Development of Displaced Reference in Child-Generated Language; Advisor: Dr. Susan Goldin-Meadow
  • 1985 BA, German, Brown University

Selected Publications


  • Tomaszewski, P., Krzysztofiak, P., Morford, J. P. & Eźlakowski, W. (2022). Effects of age-of-acquisition on proficiency in Polish Sign Language: Insights to the critical period hypothesis. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 896339. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.896339
  •  Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., Morford, J. P., Smith, M. M. & Mascolo, M.-È. (2022). Expressive and receptive performance with graphic symbol sentences by individuals who use aided communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. doi: 10.1080/07434618.2022.2085623
  • Bosworth, R. G., Binder, E. M., Tyler, S. C. & Morford, J. P. (2021). Automaticity of lexical access in deaf and hearing bilinguals: Cross-linguistic evidence from the color Stroop task across five languages. Cognition, 212, 104659. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104659. ASL Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNQGZRNuqzs
  • Villwock, A., Wilkinson, E., Piñar, P. & Morford, J. P. (2021). Language development in deaf bilinguals: Deaf middle school students co-activate written English and American Sign Language during lexical processing. Cognition, 211. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104642.
  • Wilkinson, E. & Morford, J. P. (2020). How bilingualism contributes to healthy development in deaf children: A public health perspective. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 24(11), 1330-1338. doi: 10.1007/s10995-020-02976-6.
  • Shin, N. L., Hinojosa, L., Shaffer, B. & Morford, J. P. (2020). Demonstratives as indicators of interactional focus: Spatial and social dimensions of Spanish este/esta and ese/esa. Cognitive Linguistics, 31(3). doi:10.1515/cog-2018-0068.
  • Occhino, C., Anible, B., Wilkinson, E., & Morford, J. P. (2017). Iconicity is in the eye of the beholder: How language experience affects perceived iconicity. Gesture, 16(1), 101–127. doi 10.1075/gest.16.1.04occ
  • Morford, J. P. & Hänel-Faulhaber, B. (2011). Homesigners as late learners: Connecting the dots from delayed acquisition in childhood to sign language processing in adulthood. Language and Linguistics Compass, 5(8), 525–537.
  • Morford, J. P. & Carlson, M. L. (2011). Sign perception and recognition in non-native signers of ASL. Language Learning & Development, 7(2), 149 – 168.
  • Morford, J. P., Wilkinson, E., Villwock, A., Piñar, P. & Kroll, J. F. (2011). When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations? Cognition, 118 (2), 286-292.
  • Morford, J. P., Grieve-Smith, A. B., MacFarlane, J., Staley, J. & Waters, G. S. (2008). Effects of language experience on the perception of American Sign Language. Cognition, 109, 41-53.

Awards and Grants

“Bridging research and praxis to promote multilingualism and multiculturalism in New Mexico” With Naomi Shin & Melvatha Chee. W.K. Kellogg Foundation “Indigenous Child Language Research Center” With Melvatha Chee & Naomi Shin. NM HED Research and Public Service Project “Equitable assessment of early childhood language in multilingual-multicultural early education classrooms” With Naomi Shin & Melvatha Chee. McCune Foundation “Co-activation of German Sign Language and written German in deaf bimodal bilinguals and hearing L2/M2 learners: The developmental trajectory of behavioral and neural correlates” PI: Agnes Villwock; Collaborators: Christian Rathmann, Jill P. Morford, Erin Wilkinson, Krister Schönstrom. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) “Lobo Language Acquisition Lab” With Naomi Shin & Melvatha Chee. W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Teaching Interests

  • Psycholinguistics, Bilingualism, Sign Language & Gesture
  • Language acquisition and processing

Representative Courses

  • Introduction to Psychology of Language (Ling 367/567 & Psy 367)
  • Experimental Psycholinguistics (Ling 469/569 & Psy 468)
  • Child Language (Ling 460/560 & Psy 422/522)

PIRE - Partnership for International Research and Education

NSF PIRE: Translating cognitive and brain science research to the field and education settings

The Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant is hosted at both Pennsylvania State University and the University of California at Riverside. The goal is to train a diverse workforce of language scientists, many of whom are from underrepresented groups in the STEM workforce, to conduct basic and applied behavioral and neuroscience research as it relates to bilingualism.

UNM is a domestic partner.  We focus on bilingualism in communities that use minority languages, signed languages, languages that rely on different orthographies, and bilingualism in learners who have only sparse input to one of their languages.

Here is a list of ongoing projects:

  • Cross-language activation during visual word recognition in bimodal and biscriptal bilinguals
  • The time-course of cross-language activation in deaf bilinguals
  • Effects of iconicity on language processing
  • Effects of sparse input on language acquisition and processing

How students can get involved - Are you interested in researching bilingualism? Signed language acquisition and processing? Contact Professor Jill Morford (morford@unm.edu) if you would like to get involved.