Prof. Susan Goldin-Meadow to discuss language and gesture in April 18 Ryerson Lecture

Prof. Susan Goldin-Meadow will deliver this year’s Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture, in which she will explore the resilience of language and gesture in the way people communicate.

The free public lecture will take place at 5 p.m. April 18 at the Max Palevsky Cinema of Ida Noyes Hall. It is the latest honor for the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor, who focuses on the role that hands play in talking, thinking and communicating. Goldin-Meadow’s lecture will delve into her work on the development of sign language by deaf children and the role gestures play in the way hearing people talk.

“These are behaviors that are very much part of being human,” Goldin-Meadow said. “We all gesture when we talk, and those gestures often reveal thoughts that we don’t express through our mouths. And if we’re prevented from talking, our gestures morph to take on the forms and functions of language. Our hands are a unique window onto the mind.”

Goldin-Meadow’s lecture will include her current research on the gestural languages that deaf children in Nicaragua create without the benefit of linguistic input. She also will discuss her research on the gestures hearing people use when talking, and the role these gestures play in how we learn.

Goldin-Meadow, who joined the UChicago faculty in 1976, is author of The Resilience of Language: What Gesture Creation in Deaf Children Can Tell Us About How All Children Learn Language, and Hearing Gesture: How Our Hands Help Us Think. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves as president of the Association for Psychological Science.

At UChicago, Goldin-Meadow serves as co-director of the Center for Gesture, Sign and Language. She has chaired the Department of Comparative Human Behavior and received the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching as well as the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring.

The Ryerson Lecture grew out of a 1972 bequest to the University by Nora and Edward L. Ryerson, the latter a former Board of Trustees chairman. A faculty committee selects the Ryerson lecturer based on research contributions of lasting significance.

Register here for this year’s lecture.