Professor Emeritus of Human Development
Joined Connecticut College: 1968-1999
B.A., M.A., University of Texas; Ph.D., Stanford University
• Language development • Cognition
Before her retirement in 1999, Professor Camille Hanlon, former chair of the department of human development, specialized in the development of language and cognition. Her lifelong curiosity regarding the manner in which language, thought, and outlook are bestowed on children during the first few years of life drove her courses on cognitive development and language development. She team-taught interdisciplinary courses in linguistics, cognitive science, the origins of language and extraterrestrial intelligence.
Hanlon also taught introductory Human Development courses in her department. Her most recent teaching venture was a course in which advanced students designed, taught, evaluated and reported on a learning project for young children.
Hanlon's longitudinal study with Roger Brown, "Derivational Complexity and Order of Acquisition in Child Speech" (1970), addressed the process of language acquisition by children. The study provided scientific evidence that the processes of first language acquisition are far more complex and mysterious than scientists hitherto thought. It countered the prevailing scientific view that the manner in which children learned language was that adults rewarded their correct efforts and corrected their errors. Since the findings were so contrary to the prevailing expectation, the report has changed the existing paradigm and is currently one of the most widely-cited studies in this field.
Hanlon continued to study the question of language acquisition in children in regards to the process of learning to talk about set relations (e.g. "all" or "both"). She also worked on two interrelated projects as an historical study of children in New London County, Connecticut, and the origins of family traditions of moral innovation. In addition, Hanlon closely studied the lives of two families whose farms became an important part of the Connecticut College campus. She was also been involved with a project of the Connecticut Humanities Council which is designed to encourage historical tourism along the routes of the Great Western Migration. Hanlon's work was funded by a series of grants from the National Institutes of Health.
"I grew up in the rural South and some of my earliest memories are of the Cajun stories that my grandmother swapped with others at the general store. People moved easily between French and English, all the while sharing the drolleries of everyday life as only Cajuns see it. This experience left me with a lifelong curiosity about how language, thought, and outlook are bestowed so magically upon a child in these first few years of life." - Camille Hanlon