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Natasha Abner

Assistant Professor, Linguistics

Conrad J. Schmitt Hall 240A
BA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, University of California, Los Angeles
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
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DR. ABNER received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. Her dissertation, There Once Was a Verb: The Predicative Core of Possessive and Nominalization Structures in American Sign Language, explores properties of complex nominal and verbal structures in American Sign Language (ASL) and their implications for human language, both spoken and signed. Dr. Abner has done fieldwork on typologically diverse languages including ASL, English, French Sign Language, Nicaraguan Sign Language, Tongan, and homesign. From 2012-2014, Dr. Abner was a post-doctoral scholar in the Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago Psychology Department, researching issues of language development and emergence in Deaf individuals and communities.

At Montclair, Dr. Abner researches and teaches about language structure, with a focus on signed languages. Her recent courses include:

APLN 500: Language and Linguistics
LNGN 210: Introduction to General Linguistics
LNGN 220: Structure of American English
LNGN 300: Syntax
LNGN 301: Semantics
LNGN 350: Structure of American Sign Language & Other Sign Languages
LNGN 351: Gesture, Sign, and Speech


Linguistics, Sign Languages, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, Language Development & Evolution


Office Hours


2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
10:00 am - 11:00 am


Research Projects

Sign Language Linguistics and L2 Sign Language Acquisition

Unlike speech, sign languages are human languages that are produced with the hands and body and perceived with the eyes. Signed and spoken languages have many linguistic properties in common, but they also exhibit some interesting linguistic differences. This project explores the linguistic structures of signed languages using experimental methods and traditional language fieldwork. It also examines how hearing people learn sign languages as second languages.

Communication With and Without Speech

When we speak, we communicate more than just what is said by our spoken words. We also communicate information with our gesture. Gesture is the spontaneous movement of the hands and body that accompanies language, like pointing at something when we say, "Give me that." This project explores the kinds of information communicated by gesture, the structural properties of gesture itself, and how our gesture interacts with our speech when we communicate.