Deaf Children's Developing Sign Bilingualism: Dimensions Of Language Ability, Use And Awareness

Swanwick, Ruth Anne (2000). Deaf Children's Developing Sign Bilingualism: Dimensions Of Language Ability, Use And Awareness. PhD thesis The Open University.



The focus of this study is deafchildren's developing bilingualism in British Sign Language and English (sign bilingualism). Sign bilingualism differs from bilingualism in two spoken languages in that the two languages are differently perceived and produced. This thesis explores individual sign bilingualism focusing on ways in which deaf children use their two languages, their perception of the differences between them and the influences that that two languages have on each other. It is argued that deaf children's literacy development might be supported through the development of their tacit metalinguistic skills acquired as a result of constantly moving between their two languages and so reflecting on and comparing the different ways in which BSL and English convey meaning. This study identifies what constitutes metalinguistic ability in bilingual deaf children and explores the extent to which such abilities might support the development of their literacy skills.Because this is a developing area in terms of research and educational practice this study involves an exploratory and creative approach to data collection. Six individual case studies have been carried out with sign bilingual deaf children between 7 and 8 years of age. Information about each child's strategies for moving between BSL and written English has been collected through specifically developed translation and comparative analysis activities From the data collected some of the individual characteristics of sign bilingualism including dimensions of metalinguistic proficiency are described focusing on the individual's skills within, between and across each language domain. The findings reveal dimensions of children's sign bilingualism which support the development of language profiles and assessment procedures in the educational setting and point to new areas of linguistic research. They also illustrate the potential of a focus on metalinguistic abilities for developing approaches to literacy instruction and for providing a framework for further research into deaf children's sign bilingual language development.

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