The impact of input quality on early sign development in native and non-native language learners

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Lu, J. ; Jones, A. ; Morgan, G. (2016)

There is debate about how input variation influences child language. Most deaf children are exposed to a sign language from their non-fluent hearing parents and experience a delay in exposure to accessible language. A small number of children receive language input from their deaf parents who are fluent signers. Thus it is possible to document the impact of quality of input on early sign acquisition. The current study explores the outcomes of differential input in two groups of children aged two to five years: deaf children of hearing parents (DCHP) and deaf children of deaf parents (DCDP). Analysis of child sign language revealed DCDP had a more developed vocabulary and more phonological handshape types compared with DCHP. In naturalistic conversations deaf parents used more sign tokens and more phonological types than hearing parents. Results are discussed in terms of the effects of early input on subsequent language abilities.
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