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Volume Fourteen: Issue Four

Summer 2014

ARTICLES
Misunderstanding and Repair in Tactile Auslan
Louisa Willoughby, Howard Manns, Shimako Iwasaki, and Meredith Bartlett

Abstract

Manual Activity and Onset of First Words in Babies Exposed and Not Exposed to Baby Signing
Brenda C. Seal and Rory A. DePaolis

Abstract

Deaf Sociality and the Deaf Lutheran Church in Adamorobe, Ghana
Annelies Kusters

Abstract

Using Design Principles to Consider Representation of the Hand in Some Notation Systems
Julie A. Hochgesang

Abstract

BOOK REVIEW
The Deaf House, by Joanne Weber
Kristin Snoddon
ABSTRACTS
Misunderstanding and Repair in Tactile Auslan

This article discusses ways in which misunderstandings arise in Tactile Australian Sign Language (Tactile Auslan) and how they are resolved. Of particular interest are the similarities to and differences from the same processes in visually signed and spoken conversation. This article draws on detailed conversation analysis (CA) and demonstrates the power of this methodology for uncovering the subtleties of misunderstanding and repair in deaf-blind communication. In doing so, it aids our understanding of the challenges deaf-blind people encounter in adapting a visual sign language for tactile delivery. Above all, this article demonstrates that experienced tactile signers have a range of strategies at their disposal to resolve interactional trouble and deploy them quickly and effectively when misunderstandings arise.

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Manual Activity and Onset of First Words in Babies Exposed and Not Exposed to Baby Signing

Support for baby signing (BS) with hearing infants tends to converge toward three camps or positions. Those who advocate BS to advance infant language, literacy, behavioral, and cognitive development rely heavily on anecdotal evidence and social media to support their claims. Those who advocate BS as an introduction to another language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), advocate early bilingual language learning. A third group warns against BS, emphasizing that it competes for attention with, and thereby potentially delays, spoken language acquisition in hearing infants. Empirical evidence to support any of these camps has been scarce.

In this retrospective investigation we analyzed videotapes of sixteen infants from 9 through 18 months of age; eight had been exposed to BS, and eight had not been exposed to signing (NS). We compared their manual activity and found no differences in the quantity of manual activity accompanying vocal activity and no qualitative differences in the handshapes used during manual and vocal activity. More babies in the BS group reached the 4-, 10-, and 25-word milestones than babies in the NS group, but the differences were not statistically significant. In addition, monthly lexical growth from 12 to 18 months did not reveal signing to have a statistical impact on vocabulary acquisition.

Discussion of these findings points to a tight relationship between manual and vocal activity in all sixteen babies, a relationship that aligns with previous theories and research on gestural and vocal development. Failure to find a statistical difference between the two groups’ development of words, however, calls for temperance in claiming that baby signing facilitates early word learning and cautions against claims that baby signing interferes with word learning.

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Deaf Sociality and the Deaf Lutheran Church in Adamorobe, Ghana

This article provides an ethnographic analysis of “deaf sociality” in Adamorobe, a village in Ghana, where the relatively high prevalence of hereditary deafness has led to dense social and spatial connections. Deaf people are part of their hearing environment particularly through family networks, and produce deaf sociality through many informal interactive practices which take place in “deaf spaces”. In this context, efforts by the Deaf Lutheran Church to institute deaf-only signed worship services and (development) projects have been unsuccessful. Deaf community members are a priori socialized into practices of deaf sociality through deaf spaces and see little or no need for this set of practices which bring them few benefits. Furthermore, collective structuring, social security, social work, interpreting and leadership rather happen in the context of lineages and extended families—where sign language is used—rather than in deaf-based support networks.

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Using Design Principles to Consider Representation of the Hand in Some Notation Systems

Linguists have long recognized the descriptive limitations of Stokoe notation, currently the most commonly used system for phonetic or phonological transcription, but continue using it because of its widespread influence (e.g., Siedlecki and Bonvillian 2000). With the emergence of newer notation systems, the field will benefit from a discussion and evaluation of the notation systems. It is necessary to understand the outcomes of choosing one notational system or another for representation of signed language since such a choice has lasting effect on the understanding of patterns in signed languages. In this article, I outline and examine four notation systems (Stokoe notation, Hamburg Notation System, Prosodic Model Handshape Coding and Sign Language Phonetic Annotation) used to represent hand configurations in studies of child acquisition of signed languages from the perspective of design principles of transcription, generally focusing on human and machine readability, but more specifically specificity, category design, transparency, economy, conventionality, and familiarity.

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