Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Similarities between Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Hearing Students' Awareness of Affective Words' Valence in Written Language

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Similarities between Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Hearing Students' Awareness of Affective Words' Valence in Written Language

Article excerpt

Humans tend to judge "highness" as good and "lowness" as bad (Crawford, 2009). Given that bilinguals' awareness of the valence of affective words (e.g., happy and sad) can be influenced by their age of acquisition of the second language (L2) and their L2 learning environment (Degner, Doycheva, & Wentura, 2012; Harris, Gleason, & Ayçiçegi, 2006), we wondered whether this metaphorical association between affect and vertical position works in written language in the same way for deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) students, who are bilinguals with sign language as their first language (L1) and written language as their L2 (Cormier, Schembri, Vinson, & Orfanidou, 2012), as it does for hearing students. An answer to this question would possibly provide indications of D/HH students' representations for affective words in written language.

Although largely moderated by age of acquisition of L2 in bilinguals (Altarriba, 2008), affective words are likely to be more emotionally arousing in L1 than in L2 (Dewaele, 2004). For example, after rating words' pronunciation, activity, and emotionality, both English-Spanish and Spanish-English bilinguals had higher accuracies of recall for affective words than for neutral words in L1, but not in L2 (Anooshian & Hertel, 1994). Harris et al. (2006) found differences between early- and late-proficient bilinguals' skin conductance responses in rating pleasantness of affective words. In a different way, Opitz and Degner (2012) measured French-German and German-French bilinguals' event-related potentials in word reading, and found that affective words might be processed in a less immediate way in L2 than in L1. Altarriba and Canary (2004) suggested that the priming effect was weaker for SpanishEnglish bilinguals than for English monolinguals in the affective priming task of Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, and Kardes (1986). In a similar task with German-French and French-German bilinguals, Degner et al. (2012) found affective priming effects in L1 but not in L2 for those who did not have high levels of language immersion or frequency of use of L2. In summary, bilinguals tend to have a relatively weaker awareness of affective words' valence in L2 than in L1, with the difference being subject to the influences of their age of L2 acquisition and their L2 learning environment.

D/HH Students' L1 and L2

As a population of bilinguals, however, D/HH students may be a special case. By special, we mean that many of these students are quite poor at L1. Not having opportunities to acquire a conventional sign language, for example, most D/HH children in mainland China who are born to hearing parents are like those D/HH children who spontaneously develop a natural sign language in their limited communications with hearing people (Marschark, Lang, & Albertini, 2002) and in direct interactions with the physical world.

Before entering school, D/HH children in China, especially those living in the countryside, may have a very limited vocabulary in natural sign language because there are no other D/HH individuals around them (You, 1991). Moreover, they are likely to have far fewer opportunities to attend social activities than hearing children. Afraid that their D/HH child might be teased by hearing peers, for example, some parents will confine their child to home rather than allow him or her to play on the street. Although preschool language training has proved to be crucial in enabling D/HH children to proceed to a better development of Chinese (Gao & Chen, 2004), not enough opportunities exist for the potential population of preschool D/HH children. In fact, most preschool D/HH children do not speak Chinese and seem to develop a very limited proficiency in sign language.

Of course, both spoken Chinese and Chinese Sign Language (CSL) are expected to be the main media in classroom activities, and D/HH students do seem able to use the official sign language in limited communications with teachers. …

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