Professor Gary Morgan
School of Health Sciences
Based in the School of Health Sciences at City University London and working in the field of language and communication sciences, Professor Morgan researches language acquisition and cognitive development in children. His research has had important implications for academics exploring language disorders and child development and for practitioners working with children in a variety of language contexts.
An initial research interest in how bilingual children acquire two languages simultaneously led to one of Professor Morgan's main areas of research which compares the acquisition of sign language in deaf children with the acquisition of spoken language in hearing children. Through his work on phonology (in spoken language, the sound structure that conveys meaning and in sign language, the movements and handshapes that do the same) he has demonstrated that deaf and hearing children deal with phonetic complexity in largely similar ways. His work on how deaf and hearing children learn to associate signs or words (linguistic labels) with their meanings also indicated parallels in how both groups develop that skill. In 2010, Professor Morgan published an influential study in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology with several colleagues, in particular Dr Ros Herman from the Language and Communication Science group at City, which explored language impairment in deaf children learning British Sign Language. The first study in the world to look at language impairment in sign language users, its findings have implications for practitioners working with signing children and for how language impairment is understood more generally, suggesting that it cannot be associated exclusively with sound processing.
Professor Morgan's work on language acquisition relates closely to his research into the relationship between language and cognitive development. He is particularly interested in the social cognitive development of deaf children in hearing families; how the children perceive and relate to the social world around them, how they understand their own mental states and those of others and how they solve problems and imagine hypothetical situations. At the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, where he is a deputy director, Professor Morgan is leading a study in this area. His research emphasises the importance of helping parents to communicate successfully with their deaf children at an early age in order to foster the development of their social and emotional skills. To that end, Professor Morgan has worked on training videos and publications designed to encourage best practice for parents, professionals and teachers living and working with deaf children.