The Development of Narrative Skills
in British Sign Language
By the end of the preschool period, children have acquired a substantial portion of the generative language system commensurate with that of the adult. Despite this ability, there are still many challenges that remain in learning how to use language in different pragmatic contexts. This chapter focuses on the continued developments and refinements that occur in the production of deaf school-age children's narratives in British Sign Language (BSL). Although the data and psycholinguistic models discussed are based on narratives produced in BSL, it is intended that this work can be applied to other signed languages.
The chapter includes an exploration of the issues surrounding deaf children's mastery of the extended uses of signed language narrative (e.g., those needed for academic discourse). It is argued that these developments revolve around the bilingual relationship between literacy in signed and spoken language. School-based activities involving comparative narrative analysis are outlined at the end of the chapter.
Children start to link sentences together in narrative only after a prolonged period of mastering the sentence-level linguistic devices of their
I thank Isabel Garcia, Ros Herman, and Nicola Grove for comments on earlier versions
of this chapter. I am also very grateful for insightful comments provided by Brenda Schick
and Marc Marschark.