My main line of research is the examination of language processing in people born profoundly deaf, using various research techniques to provide converging evidence. I have adopted a novel approach that focuses less on disability and more on what deaf people can do naturally (e.g. visual processing).
In studies of sign language processing, I have found that deaf signers use both phonological and semantic information of signs using similar, but not identical, mechanisms as hearing people do to understand words. I demonstrated that some idiosyncrasies of signed languages, for example, the stronger link between phonology and semantics in signs, are reflected in the brain electrophysiological signature of sign comprehension (Gutierrez et al., 2012). I also found a stronger left lateralization for sign than spoken production, possibly reflecting the specific phonological demands of signed languages.
In studies of written language processing, I have demonstrated that deaf readers use phonological information of words automatically (Gutierrez-Sigut, et al., 2017). However, unlike hearing readers, the use of this phonological information did not contribute to reading comprehension attainment.
In future studies, I plan to investigate how the interplay between form and meaning of written words affects comprehension of longer texts in deaf readers. This would inform educational programmes and hence could have important educational implications for deaf children and adults.
Email: Dr. Eva Gutierrez-Sigut