Richard J. Senghas

Title: Professor

Concentration: Linguistic anthropology, linguistics of signed and spoken languages, social anthropology, Deaf studies; Nicaragua, North America.

Education: BA, University of Massachusetts (Amherst) 1978; MA, University of Rochester 1994; Ph.D., University of Rochester 1997

Office: Stevenson 2054C

Phone: (707) 664-2307



As an undergraduate, Richard Senghas pursued both studies of Old English and computer sciences at the University of Massachusetts (including writing programs to scan the text of Beowulf for clues to structure and scansion). After spending a decade working in various engineering departments in Silicon Valley (the last within NeXT Computers), Richard returned to academics to join his sister, Ann Senghas (Barnard College of Columbia U), in the study of a new sign language emerging in Nicaragua.  While Ann’s focus has been on the psycholinguistic dimensions, Richard’s focus approaches the case from anthropological and multidisciplinary directions.  They have collaborated on and off since the early 1990s.


  • ANTH 200: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
  • ANTH 203: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH 300: Nature & Culture: The Growth of Anthropology
  • ANTH 340: Living in Our Globalized World
  • ANTH 380: Language, Culture, & Society
  • ANTH 382: Language Change
  • ANTH 383: Language in Sociopolitical Context
  • ANTH 386: Sign Languages & Signing Communities
  • ANTH 480: Studies of Language Use (aka Linguistic Methods)

Selected Scholarship:

Senghas, R. J. & Monaghan, L.  (2002).  Signs of Their Times: Deaf Communities and the Culture of Language.  Annual Review of Anthropology 31:69-97.

Senghas, R. J.  (2003).  New Ways to Be Deaf in Nicaragua: Changes in Language, Personhood, and Community.  In Many Ways to Be Deaf: International Variation in Deaf Communities.  L. Monaghan, C. Schmaling, K. Nakamura, and G. H. Turner, eds.  Pp. 260-282.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Senghas, R. J., Senghas, A., and Pyers, J.  (2005).  The emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language: Questions of Development, Acquisition, and Evolution.  In Biology and Knowledge Revisited: From Neurogenesis to Psychogenesis.  S. T. Parker, J. Langer, and C Milbrath, eds.  Pp. 287-306.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Current Research:

Following continued development of Nicaraguan Sign Language (Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua) and its signing community, including international linguistic, sociocultural, political, and economic factors.  Initiating studies in the area of cohousing and other forms of intentional communities.