Article published in:The gesture–sign interface in language acquisition / L’interface geste–signe dans l’acquisition du langage
Edited by Aliyah Morgenstern and Michèle Guidetti
[Language, Interaction and Acquisition 8:1] 2017
► pp. 117–140
A functional approach to self-points and self-reference in a deaf signing child and the (dis)continuity issue in child language
Based on her observation of two deaf children acquiring American Sign Language (ASL) who stopped pointing to persons at around 12 months and then produced reversal errors, Petitto (1987) argued that the discontinuous development of gestures and signs gives support to the hypothesis that language does not arise from general cognitive processes. However, since then, a large amount of studies on hearing children have suggested that early pointing was strongly related to later language abilities. In this paper, we follow up on these socio-cognitive approaches, with a dataset comparable to Petitto’s. We study the development of pointing and self-reference in a deaf child acquiring French Sign Language (LSF). We focus on self-reference rather than self-points, and suggest that, despite the apparent discontinuity in the production of self-points, there is continuity in the establishment of self-reference. In our data, the child produces self-points early on. She then uses predicates without overt subject before entering more complex syntax by combining predicates and self-points. The deaf signing child constructs self-reference similarly to speaking children and uses specific forms provided by her linguistic environment according to her cognitive, social and linguistic development.
Keywords: pointing, continuity, self-reference, language acquisition, French Sign Language
Published online: 16 October 2017
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