Language Modality and the Acquisition of Signed Languages

Richard P. Meir, de l’Université du Texas à Austin, donnera le vendredi 17 octobre à 15h en salle W-5215 (UQAM, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain , métro Berri-UQAM) une conférence intitulée : “Language Modality and the Acquisition of Signed Languages”

There will be simultaneous sign language interpretation (LSQ).

Biographie : Richard Meier est professeur au département de linguistique de l’Université du Texas à Austin. Il a obtenu un B.A. en anthropologie de l’Université de Chicago, un M.A. en anthropologie de l’Université Washington à St. Louis, et un Ph.D. en linguistique de l’Université de Californie à San Diego. Depuis plus de 25 ans, ses recherches portent la structure des langues signées et l’acquisition de l’American Sign Language comme langue première.

Biography : Richard Meier is professor at the Department of Linguistics of the University of Texas at Austin. He has a B. A. in anthropology from the University of Chicago, an M.A. in anthropology from Washington University, St. Louis, and a Ph. D. in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego. For more than 25 years, he has conducted research on the linguistic structure of signed languages, and the acquisition of American Sign Language as a first language.

Abstract : We now know that there are two major transmission channels for the production and perception of language : the oral-aural modality of spoken languages and the visual-gestural modality of signed languages. The distinct properties of the two language modalities and the unusual demographics of signing communities allow researchers on signed languages to test a variety of interesting questions that could not readily be examined if language acquisition research were confined to spoken languages.

I begin by considering the implications of language modality for the overall timecourse of language development. Given the ubiquity of spoken languages in hearing communities and given arguments that humans and speech have co-evolved, we might expect that children learning signed languages would be disadvantated. To address this issue, I review evidence concerning the milestones of language development in sign and speech.

The speech and sign modalities differ in the resources that they make available to learners and the constraints that they impose on learners. For example, a child learning a signed label must divide his/her visual attention between the mother’s signing and the objects to which she refers. In this light, I will consider data from child-directed signing that suggests the ways in which Deaf mothers accommodate the attentional capacities of their deaf children. The visual-gestural modality also makes certain resources available to signed languages that are largely unavailable to spoken languages. In particular, signed languages have much richer resources for iconic representation than so spoken languages. By looking at naturalistically-collected data from four deaf children of Deaf parents, I examine the extent to which infants, ages 8-17 months, make use of these iconic resources in their early sign productions. I will argue that early sign production is largely guided by articulatory or motor constraints, some common to sign and speech, but others which are specific to the visual-gestural modality.

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Institut des sciences cognitives

Fondé en 2003, l'Institut des Sciences Cognitives de l'UQAM vise à favoriser la recherche et le développement de compétences dans le domaine des sciences cognitives, à en partager les connaissances, à faciliter les échanges interdisciplinaires et à animer la communauté locale.

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