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Volume Eleven: Issue One

Fall 2010

ARTICLES
The Mechanics of Fingerspelling: Analyzing Ethiopian Sign Language
Kyle Duarte

Abstract

British Sign Name Customs
Linda Day and Rachel Sutton-Spence

Abstract

Numeral-Incorporating Roots in Numeral Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Two Sign Languages
Mariana Fuentes, María Ignacia Massone, María del Pilar Fernández-Viader, Alejandro Makotrinsky and Francisca Pulgarín

Abstract

Literacy Behaviors of Deaf Preschoolers during Video Viewing
Debbie Golos

Abstract

A Call for Improvement: The Need for Research-Based Materials in American Sign Language Education
Robertta Thoryk

Abstract

ABSTRACTS
The Mechanics of Fingerspelling: Analyzing Ethiopian Sign Language

Ethiopian Sign Language utilizes a fingerspelling system that represents Amharic orthography. Just as each character of the Amharic abugida encodes a consonant-vowel sound pair, each sign in the Ethiopian Sign Language fingerspelling system uses handshape to encode a base consonant, as well as a combination of timing, placement, and orientation to encode a paired vowel. This fingerspelling system is a productive polymorphemic method of naming the written characters of the Amharic language.

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British Sign Name Customs

Research presented here describes the sign names and the customs of name allocation within the British Deaf community. While some aspects of British Sign Language sign names and British Deaf naming customs differ from those in most Western societies, there are many similarities. There are also similarities with other societies outside the more familiar cultures of most English-speakers. Naming customs in the British Deaf community are shown here to vary over time, with changes in education and other key elements of the British Deaf experience influencing the choice and use of sign names. While descriptive sign names are important within the British Deaf community, arbitrary signs, and those derived from the English language are also important. Additionally BSL sign names are shown to vary among different sections of the Deaf community. In contrast to reports from America, we find that British Deaf parents in the past have rarely allocated sign names to their children—deaf or hearing—beyond fingerspelled forms of their English names. Some of these children of Deaf parents retain these fingerspelled forms throughout their lives. Others only acquire names motivated by descriptive processes on entering school or even later in life. Thus, we conclude that, unlike people in many societies, the overwhelming majority of British Deaf people appear to acquire descriptive sign names from outside their families.

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Numeral-Incorporating Roots in Numeral Systems: A Comparative Analysis of Two Sign Languages

Numeral-incorporating roots in the numeral systems of Argentine Sign Language (LSA) and Catalan Sign Language (LSC), as well as the main features of the number systems of both languages, are described and compared. Informants discussed the use of numerals and roots in both languages (in most cases in natural contexts). Ten informants took part in the LSC data collection, and six in the LSA data collection. The data were corroborated by analyzing the videos available at www.youtube.com/confargsordos (for LSA) and by videos and books provided by the ILLESCAT Foundation (for LSC), as well as by previous research. A general inventory of roots in both languages and specifically of roots in both numerals systems was carried out. The role of roots in the formation of ordinals and cardinals and the main features of both number systems are described. The data suggest that numeral-incorporating roots in these number systems are formed only from numerals that do not derive from manual counting. This assumption is discussed, and further research about this point is emphasized.

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Literacy Behaviors of Deaf Preschoolers during Video Viewing

A pressing concern in the education of deaf children is their lack of academic success as measured by literacy rates. Most deaf children finish high school reading below a fourth-grade level. Educational television programs have successfully fostered preschool hearing children’s emergent literacy skills. As for preschool deaf children, however, there has been only limited research on whether this medium can be effective.This study uses descriptive analyses to determine the type and frequency of literacy behaviors that preschool deaf children engage in while viewing an educational video in American Sign Language. Children were videotaped during three such sessions, and the videos were coded for literacy-related engagement behaviors. The results of this study indicate that preschool deaf children engaged in a variety of such behaviors regardless of age and ASL exposure and that these behaviors increased after multiple video viewings.

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A Call for Improvement: The Need for Research-Based Materials in American Sign Language Education

Educational reform and financial considerations have emphasized accountability and use of research-based materials and strategies in education. Simultaneously, with growing enrollment in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary ASL programs, the number of commercially marketed materials has grown. Do such materials stand up under scrutiny when examined for relationship to current educational research and to requests for evidence of efficacy? A commercially available program for improving fingerspelling recognition was tested, using qualitative and quantitative methods, as an example of the type of research needed within the field.

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