The Use of Repair Strategies: Bilingual Deaf Children Using Sign Language and Spoken Language

By Most, Tova | American Annals of the Deaf, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

The Use of Repair Strategies: Bilingual Deaf Children Using Sign Language and Spoken Language


Most, Tova, American Annals of the Deaf


THE LANGUAGE EFFECTS on repair strategies employed by 7 bilingual deaf children (native signers who also used spoken language) was examined. During two sessions-one conducted in sign language and the other in spoken language-each child described a picture. The examiner stopped the child twice to request clarification. The children's responses to the requests were coded into seven repair strategies. Results indicated that language mode significantly influenced repair strategy behavior: In sign language, the children used a greater frequency, variety, and level of strategies. The position of the clarification request also had an effect: Later in the sequence, the children used more advanced strategies. It was assumed that these native signers evidenced a higher language level in sign, which allowed them to use more advanced communicational strategies in sign than in spoken language. This performance gap should be considered in intervention.

The process of communication involves mutual interactions in which people acting as talkers and listeners share ideas, thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The efficiency of this process depends on each of the participants. To enable fluent conversation, each person must be sensitive to the other's needs (Palmer, 1988; Wiseman & Barker, 1976). ? communication breakdown or failure occurs when communicators do not properly perceive a message. The use of different repair strategies may help overcome such failures.

The ability to participate in conversational repair sequences is an integral part of the language acquisition process (Gallagher, 1977; Garvey, 1975). That is to say, young children develop the capacity to incorporate repair strategies as they experience communication breakdowns. As pragmatic ability develops during the process of language acquisition, awareness also evolves regarding the needs of the participants in the communication interaction. Research has shown that even very young children respond to a clarification request with a repair, selecting one appropriate to their own linguistic and cognitive levels (Gallagher, 1977). The strategies used to provide clarification change with age. In a study by Brinton, Fujiki, Loeb, and Winkler (1986), all children between the ages of 2 years, 7 months, and 9 years, 10 months, including the younger ones (those under age 7 years), responded to clarification requests, mainly with repetition. The older children, ages 7 to 9 years, also employed other strategies such as revision and addition.

Because of their hearing loss, many children who are deaf frequently experience communication breakdowns in their interactions, especially when the mode of communication is spoken language. Hearing loss also affects the ability to overcome communication breakdowns. Hearing individuals learn to use repair strategies naturally and spontaneously through everyday auditory experience, whereas, because of their hearing loss, deaf individuals who use spoken language do not undergo such experiences. The reduced quantity and quality of interactional experience of profoundly deaf children (Clark, 1989; Gallaway & Woll, 1994; Ling, 1989) means fewer opportunities for competent communicators to model these interactional behaviors, as well as fewer opportunities for children with profound deafness to attempt to apply these behaviors in meaningful settings. Such children need more direct and indirect experience in meaningful face-to-face interaction.

Researchers found the use of repair strategy to be less developed among children with hearing loss than among their hearing peers. T Most (2002), for example, showed that deaf children differed significantly from hearing children of the same age in their use of repair strategies in spoken-language communication. That study, however, clicl not clarify whether the relatively small number of strategies used by deaf children related to the specific spoken language under investigation. …

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The Use of Repair Strategies: Bilingual Deaf Children Using Sign Language and Spoken Language
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