haskins logo
Who We Are (continued)
Most people take language for granted. Speech, after all, defines us as human beings, while literacy is the foundation of modern civilization. Yet the relationship between speech and literacy is anything but simple. Although talking and understanding what others say comes naturally to every healthy child, many individuals as well as entire societies do not read or write. How do we acquire, produce and understand speech, which is our birthright by biological evolution? How do we achieve literacy, which is a cultural artifact? What bridges these dual domains of language? Exploring such questions opens a window on the inner workings of the mind.

Answering these fascinating questions is of more than scientific interest to those who cannot take language for granted. Disorders, disease and trauma impair some people's ability to speak and/or understand the speech of others. Disabilities and inadequate education prevent many more from learning to read or write. The science of the spoken and the written word promises to help these people participate more fully in their humanity and our society.

The Haskins Laboratories has been at the forefront of this research for more than sixty years. It is the nation's leading multidisciplinary community of scientists studying speech, language and reading. Its theoretical and technological breakthroughs are continually advancing the science of the spoken and the written word, and the practical applications of its discoveries are improving human communication.