Sign Language Acquisition

By Pichler, Deborah Chen | Sign Language Studies, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Sign Language Acquisition


Pichler, Deborah Chen, Sign Language Studies


Sign Language Acquisition, ed. Anne Baker and Bencie Woll (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2008, 178 pp., hardcover, $120.00, ISBN 978-90-272-2244-2)

THIS VOLUME FEATURES a collection of papers published in 2005 as a special issue of Sign Language and Linguistics (8[1/2]). The papers originated from a workshop on acquisition hosted by the Intersign Network, an organization established to promote collaborative sign language linguistic research throughout Europe. In line with this mission, these papers cover a healthy variety of national sign languages (including Sign Language of the Netherlands/NGT, Finnish Sign Language/FinnSL, and British Sign Language/BSL) and address methodological issues relevant to data exchange and cross-linguistic research. These issues still pose formidable challenges in the field of sign language acquisition, a point that is acknowledged by all of the authors, who offer frank evaluations of specific practices in transcription, coding, and language assessment.

In chapter 1 Anne Baker, Beppie van den Bogaerde, and Bencie WoIl provide a helpful guide of best practices for designing and conducting sign language acquisition research projects. Their impressively comprehensive discussion presents various research design choices and variables to consider when selecting subjects. Next they deal with data collection and consider the pros and cons of spontaneous versus elicited data. They also offer very practical suggestions on how to position the video camera(s) during filming, how long to film, and how to minimize the effects of the researcher's presence on the production of the signers who are being filmed (the well-known "observer's paradox" [Labov 1972]). In addition, the authors address transcription and coding, areas in which fieldwide standards have traditionally been conspicuous by their absence, greatly hampering collaboration among sign researchers. To explain this state of affairs, the authors list the many variables that researchers must consider when designing a transcription system: which levels of language data to transcribe and which units of analysis to choose, what software to use for creating transcripts, how to represent voicing or mouthing that accompanies signing, how to distinguish between early gesture and early signs, and how to gloss specific sign language structures. Throughout their discussion, the authors raise problematic issues and offer the solutions that their respective research teams adopted, but they do not promote one solution over another. Instead, they emphasize that different research questions invariably lead to various choices in transcription practice. The chapter concludes with a general timeline of the stages of sign language development, drawn from acquisition reports on ASL and several European sign languages. The authors warn that this timeline is still very preliminary and hence should not be regarded as in any way definitive; still, it provides a useful orientation to the reader and at the same time reminds us of how much work remains to be done in the area of sign language acquisition.

Baker, van den Bogaerde, and WoIl are painstakingly thorough in their discussion of the many features of data collection and transcription that researchers must consider before designing a sign acquisition project. Their thoroughness makes chapter 1 the most widely useful one in this volume. It would be even more helpful if it included mention of two developments highly relevant to the topic of transcription standardization. The first is the new sign phonetic notation system proposed by Johnson and Liddell (201 1), which permits description of the formational properties of signs in exhaustive detail. Through testing and refining by many users, this system could conceivably become the sign equivalent of the IPA for spoken languages, filling a longstanding gap in the sign linguist's toolbox. Another fairly recent development involves the concept of ID-glosses, promoted by Johnston (2010) and others as a solution to the cumbersome variation in glossing conventions developed by different researchers for the same sign languages. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sign Language Acquisition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.