Linguistics graduate student Lynn Hou has been awarded not one, but two prestigious national grant awards to fund her doctoral research on the development of sign language in an indigenous community in rural Mexico. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research is a multi-year award that will support tuition and living expenses for the remainder of Hou’s doctoral studies. A Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support research expenses associated with the dissertation. Combined, the grants may contribute up to $90,000 towards Hou’s graduate studies.
Hou’s project seeks to fill a gap in what we know about how sign language develops in rural non-western communities. The project focuses on the villages of San Juan Quiahije and Cieneguilla (pop. 3,628) in the Mexican State of Oaxaca, where a dispersed community of ten deaf people including four children use Chatino Sign Language, a developing language unrelated to forms of sign language used in urban areas of Mexico. By examining how various factors—from the cultural organization of language and communication to environmental factors—affect the children’s language learning and socialization, Hou hopes to contribute to our broad understanding of how new sign languages emerge and develop.
Working under the supervision of Dr. Richard Meier, Chair of the Department of Linguistics, and Dr. Angela Nonaka, Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Linguistics, Hou tentatively plans to finish her dissertation in spring 2015.
For an interview with Lynn Hou on her research, please see article in The Daily Texan (February 26, 2014) http://www.dailytexanonline.com/person/lynn-hou