The Development of Morphology Without a Conventional Language Model
The language-learning child in all cultures is exposed to a model of a particular language and, not surprisingly, acquires that language. Thus, linguistic input clearly has an effect on the child’s acquisition of language. Nevertheless, it is possible that linguistic input does not affect all aspects of language development uniformly, and that variations in linguistic input will alter the course of development of some properties of language but not of others. In our own work, we have focused on isolating the properties of language whose development can withstand wide variations in learning conditions — the “resilient” properties of language. We have observed children who have not been exposed to conventional linguistic input in order to determine which properties of language can be developed by a child under one set of degraded input conditions. The children we study are deaf with hearing losses so severe that they cannot naturally acquire oral language, and born to hearing parents who have not yet exposed them to a manual language. Despite their impoverished language learning conditions, these deaf children develop a gestural communication system which is structured in many ways like the communication systems of young children learning language in traditional linguistic environments (Feldman, Goldin-Meadow, & Gleitman, 1978; Goldin-Meadow, 1979, 1982; Goldin-Meadow & Mylander, 1983,1984b).
KeywordsSign Language Lexical Item American Sign Language Deaf Child Child Language
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