Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Mediating Native Swedish Sign Language: First Language in Gestural Modality Interactions at Storytime

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Mediating Native Swedish Sign Language: First Language in Gestural Modality Interactions at Storytime

Article excerpt

"Deaf" with a capital D is commonly used to indicate cultural affiliation, whereas lowercase d, as in "deaf," refers to audiological status.

PARENTS AND PROFESSIONALS who work with deaf children perform an important task. The early acquisition of language is vital for further language development and language automaticity (Ladberg 2006). In that regard, studies that combine patterns of guidance and acquisition in young childrens sign language development have an important role to play. When guiding a child's acquisition of language, the mediator uses skills that the child is about to acquire (Vygotsky 1934/1962). When the child independently displays a certain language skill, that skill is considered to be in place (Slobin 1973), and the child's acquisition of language is not challenged (Vygotsky 1934/1962).The importance of first-language skills was demonstrated in a study of second-language acquisition. In that study (Hassanzadeh 2012, 993), second-generation deaf children were given cochlear implants, and "the deaf children with deaf parents out-perform[ed] deaf children with hearing parents in cochlear implantation (Cl) performance." A case study of a second-generation child, Diana, who received a Cl at the age of three, reported age-adequate (for hearing children) receptive skills in spoken language at eight years of age (Cramer-Wolrath 2013b, 2013c). It is reasonable to suggest that Diana's first-language skill, as in other bilingualism, was crucial for this development. However, most deaf children are born to hearing families who, previous to the birth of their deaf child, have had no contact with sign language. In these families, both early support of sign language acquisition and knowledge of mediation techniques are crucial (Lyness et al. 2013). In fact, even hearing children show greater language acquisition when hearing parents use "baby signs," borrowed from the national sign language, with them (Acredolo and Goodwyn 1988, 2000). However, few studies describe the combination of language acquisition and Deaf parents' mediation of their child's first language. Thus, the research objective reported here was to draw from a case study to describe this process in depth from an interactional perspective.

Video observations ofsocial interactions were analyzed in order to detect actions and language structure while mediating the acquisition of sign language as a child's first language. Unlike other studies, these interactions were triadic; that is, they primarily included two young children (in this case, twins) and their mother. Additionally, each child had a different hearing status (Cramér-Wolrath 2013a). Such interactions give rare information that is useful for pedagogical purposes, especially as many deaf children with hearing devices are included in mainstream preschool settings (Cramér-Wolrath 2013c).

Mediation

Mediation starts with social instruction with regard to one's culture (Vygotsky 1934/1962, i98y;Wertsch 198$).With young children, parents and siblings most often provide such guidance. In this process, language serves as the most important acquisition tool. Studies of parents' mediation of the native sign language, combined with language acquisition, are rare, although some studies (Malmström and Preisler 1991; Reilly and Bellugi 1996; Reilly, McIntire, and Bellugi 1991; van den Bogaerde 2000) include aspects of scaffolding (Bruner 1983). However, one longitudinal study of mediation with a fourthgeneration deaf child spans the period between four and thirty-six months of age and discusses language and literacy in an American Sign Language (ASL) environment (Bailes et al. 2009). Studies of hearing infants report a shared focus on objects with another individual by the end of the first year (that is, showing secondary intersubjectivity in joint attention) (Susswein and Racine 2008; Trevarthen 1993). To guide this development, a more competent person can mediate an activity in a secure learning environment by providing encouragement, challenges, feedback, and joint activities (Kozulin et al. …

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