A colleague of ours once remarked (paraphrasing to protect the innocent): "Isn't it amazing how we can all know so much about this and still know so little?" Even if the comment was not quite as profound as it might appear, in this context, it is dead on. This volume came about because we felt that this is one of the most exciting times in the history of language development research and the most exciting with regard to sign language development of deaf children. Yet, for all of the research we have seen on the topic, the pieces of the puzzle still seem to be spread all over the table, in small interlocking clumps, but without revealing the bigger picture.
It is also a time of great changes in the larger field of research concerning deaf children, for a variety of reasons. Over the past couple of years, in our editorial roles for the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, we have seen some subtle and not so subtle changes in the field. The 800-pound gorilla in this case is the cochlear implant.1 With regard to spoken language development, the increasing popularity of cochlear implants, particularly in Australia (where approximately 80% of all deaf children now receive implants) and in the United States, is changing the lives of some investigators almost as much as it is changing the lives of deaf children and their parents (Spencer & Marschark, 2003). Research concerning the impact of implants on language
1 Just in case there is some country that does not have this joke-turned-metaphor:
Q: Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit? A: Anywhere it wants!