Gesture and the Nature of Semantic
The authors explain Stokoe’s seminal concept of semantic phonology and clarify
some controversies concerning its application.
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Language and Literacy Acquisition
Through Parental Mediation in American Sign Language
This longitudinal case study examined the language and literacy acquisition of a
Deaf child as mediated by her signing Deaf parents during her first three years
of life. Results indicate that the parents’ interactions with their child were
guided by linguistic and cultural knowledge that produced an intuitive use of
child-directed signing (CDSi) in American Sign Language (ASL) and that the child
developed in ways similar to her hearing, speaking counterparts. Parental
attention to eye gaze and eye contact, especially prior to the advent of the
first sign, are described, as are the ways they mediated their child’s
transference of knowledge about their visual language, ASL, to printed English.
These findings demonstrate that when deaf children are immersed in a visually
accessible natural language environment from birth, they can participate in the
kinds of mediated interaction that provide the linguistic resources and the
cognitive mapping necessary for increasingly complex development. Implications
for the development of deaf children are addressed in light of continuing
reports of underachievement in this population, whose members are typically
deprived of the linguistic and cognitive resources afforded by early immersion
in a natural signed language.
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Deaf Children’s Construction of Writing
High illiteracy rates among the Argentine deaf population, even after long years
of schooling, point to the need to revise certain approaches to deaf literacy,
particularly in school settings. Qualitative change in deaf literacy requires
the use of multiple conceptual tools if learners are to be able to tackle its
complexity without reductionism or oversimplification. We define illiteracy as
the absence of knowledge that involves but is not confined to graphic marks. It
has been contended that the term may also apply to the difficulty one
experiences in interpreting and using written materials in a variety of
contexts, as well as the inability to take part in a literate culture despite
having mastered its written symbols.
Various studies have focused on different aspects of the “conquest of the
written language” by deaf children and teenagers. Stressing their competence in
and need for visual communication, this research therefore calls for the
rejection of oralism in favor of the new ways of knowing made possible by
today’s essentially visual media and multimedia.
In speaking of writing as a language or a mode of language, we mean far more
than simply communicating. We are also referring to the making of meaning, to
the interpretation of cultural practices, and to the reconstruction of the
representations that define the family and culture in which every person is
subjectively and socially embedded. Thus, literacy should be encouraged as a way
to promote integration, and the processes that deaf children engage in to
develop it deserve close attention.
In order to account for the specific features of the cognitive and linguistic
processes that deaf people utilize when dealing with written language, we draw
on two perspectives that have revolutionized the traditional understanding of
the factors at stake in deaf literacy. These are the socioanthropological view
of deafness and the psycholinguistic theory of writing, which is based on
psychogenetic studies. Written languages characterize the practices,
representations, and discourses of the literate hearing societies in which deaf
communities are embedded. Deaf children, to whom written language is a second
language, are linguistically, communicatively, and pragmatically competent in
their own natural sign language. We explore deaf children’s literacy and the
role that sign language plays in the reconstruction of written language.
The present study is part of a wider research project that focuses on how these
children develop literacy skills. The article concentrates on the cognitive and
linguistic processes involved in understanding written Spanish. It also
discusses the conceptual schemata of language learners for whom sound does not
constitute a source of information. They are already competent, nevertheless, in
their own natural language (i.e., sign language), which presupposes a
distinctive type of linguistic organization.
This article analyzes the interpretation of an illustrated text by deaf children
who had had no oral training. The conclusions we draw are based on data obtained
at the exploratory stage of this ongoing project. Although they are therefore
provisional, we offer them here to encourage the revision of deaf literacy practices.
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