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


  • Villwock, A., Wilkinson, E., & Morford, J. P. (2020). Crossmodale Ko-Aktivierung von Schriftsprachen und Gebärdensprachen bei tauben Kindern und Erwachsenen: Ein Resümee und Ausblick auf zukünftige Studien.  Das Zeichen, 116 (20), 2-13. 
  • 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.
  • Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., Morford, J. P., & Smith, M. (2020). Expressive and receptive use of speech and graphic symbols by typically developing children: What skills contribute to performance on structured sentence-level tasks? International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi: 10.1080/17549507.2020.1756406.
  • Hou, L. & Morford, J. P. (2020).  Using sign language collocations to investigate acquisition. A commentary on Ambridge (2019). First Language, 40 (5-6), 585-591. doi:10.1177/0142723720908075.
  • 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., & Morford, J. P. (2020). The role of iconicity, construal, and proficiency in the online processing of handshape. Language and Cognition, Special Issue on Experimental Approaches to Iconicity in Language, 12(1), 114-137. doi:10.1017/langcog.2020.1
  • Morford, J. P., Shaffer, B., Shin, N., Twitchell, P. & Petersen, B. T. (2019). An exploratory study of ASL demonstratives. Languages, Special Issue: HDLS 13: Challenges to Common Beliefs in Linguistic Research, 4(4), 80. doi:10.3390/languages4040080.
  • Morford, J. P., Occhino, C., Zirnstein, M., Kroll, J. F., Wilkinson, E., & Piñar, P. (2019). What is the source of bilingual cross-language activation in deaf bilinguals? Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 24 (4), 356–365. doi:10.1093/deafed/enz024.
  • Piñar, P., Carlson, M., Morford, J. P., Dussias, P. E. (2017). Bilingual deaf readers’ use of semantic and syntactic cues in the processing of English relative clauses. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 20 (5), 980 – 998, doi:10.1017/S1366728916000602.
  • 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., Occhino, C., Piñar, P., Wilkinson, E., & Kroll, J. F. (2017). The time course of cross-language activation in deaf ASL-English bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 20(2), 337-350, doi:10.1017/S136672891500067X.
  • Anible, B., Twitchell, P., Waters, G. S., Dussias, P. E., Piñar, P. & Morford, J. P. Sensitivity to verb bias in ASL-English bilinguals. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 20(3), 215-228, 2015.
  • Twitchell, P., Morford, J. P. & Hauser, P. C. Effects of SES on literacy development in deaf signing bilinguals. American Annals of the Deaf, 159(5), 433–446, 2015.
  • Trudeau, N., Sutton, A., & Morford, J. P. An investigation of developmental changes in interpretation and construction of graphic symbol sequences through systematic combination of input and output modalities.  Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 30(3), 187-199, 2014.
  • Morford, J. P., Kroll, J. F., Piñar, P. & Wilkinson, E. Bilingual word recognition in deaf and hearing signers: Effects of proficiency and language dominance on cross-language activation.  Second Language Research, 30(2), 251–271, 2014.
  • Piñar, P., Dussias, P. E., & Morford, J. P. Deaf readers as bilinguals: An examination of deaf readers’ print comprehension in light of current advances in bilingualism and second language processing.  Language and Linguistics Compass, 5 (10), 691 – 704, 2011.
  • Morford, J. P. & Hänel-Faulhaber, B. 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, 2011.
  • Morford, J. P. & Carlson, M. L. Sign perception and recognition in non-native signers of ASL, Language Learning & Development, 7 (2), 149 – 168, 2011.
  • Morford, J. P., Wilkinson, E., Villwock, A., Piñar, P. & Kroll, J. F. When deaf signers read English: Do written words activate their sign translations? Cognition, 118 (2), 286-292, 2011.
  • Trudeau, N., Sutton, A., Morford, J., Côté-Giroux, P., et Pauzé, A.-M. Strategies in construction and interpretation of graphic symbol utterances by individuals with disabilities who use AAC systems.  Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 26 (4), 299-312, 2010. (Voted Most Significant Research Article published in the AAC Journal in 2010).
  • Morford, J. P., Staley, J. & Burns, B. Seeing signs: Language experience and handshape perception. Deaf Studies Digital Journal, 2, http://dsdj.gallaudet.edu/, 2010.
  • Trudeau, N., Morford, J. P., & Sutton, A. The role of word order in the interpretation of canonical and non-canonical graphic symbol utterances: A developmental study. Augmentative and Alternative  Communication, 26 (2), 1–14, 2010.
  • Sutton, A., Trudeau, N., Morford, J., Rios, M. & Poirier, M.-A. Young children have difficulty constructing and interpreting simple utterances composed of graphic symbols. Journal of Child Language, 37, 1-26,  2010.
  • Morford, J. P., Grieve-Smith, A. B., MacFarlane, J., Staley, J. & Waters, G. S. Effects of language experience on the perception of American Sign Language. Cognition, 109, 41-53, 2008.

Awards and Grants

Domestic Partner, National Science Foundation OISE-1545900: PIRE (Partnerships in International Research and Education): Translating cognitive and brain science in the laboratory and field to language learning environments. PIs: Judith F. Kroll, Paola Dussias, John Lipski, Janet van Hell, 2016 – 2021.

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.