How Does Gestural Communication Become Language?
The title of this chapter reflects one of the basic questions in language acquisition theory. The study we describe contributes to our understanding of the process through which gestural communication becomes language. Deaf children of hearing parents not exposed to sign language input appear to develop spontaneously efficient visual-gestural communication at the same time they increase their spoken communication (see Goldin-Meadow, 1979; Goldin-Meadow & Feldman, 1975; Mohay, 1982, 1984; Pereira, 1985); but it is not clear how this development takes place. Do they “create” a gestural language or more simply do they transform and develop the limited gestural input they are exposed to? Exploring this process through a single case study can help us to understand better, on the one hand, some similarities between gestural communication of hearing children acquiring spoken language spontaneously and gestural communication of deaf children struggling in order to acquire spoken language. On the other hand, it helps us to clarify some relevant differences between gestural communication and sign language.
KeywordsSign Language American Sign Language Deaf Child Speech Therapist Fourth Session
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