Acquisition of reference to self and others in Greek Sign Language : From pointing gesture to pronominal pointing signs

by Hatzopoulou, Marianna

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation explores the emergence of the linguistic use of pointing as first- and non-first-person pronoun in Greek Sign Language. Despite the similarity in form between the pointing gesture and pronominal pointing signs, children acquiring sign language pass through the same stages and acquire personal pronouns at about the same age as children acquiring spoken language. According to Petitto (1984, 1987, 1994), the transition to pronominal pointing in American Sign Language is characterised by: (a) a period of discontinuity in which children avoid using pointing directed towards persons, and (b) the occurrence of reversal errors before the acquisition of first and second-person pronouns.The present study offers additional evidence on the acquisition of personal pronouns through the investigation of: (a) the manner and the age at which pronominal pointing signs are acquired by a child exposed to Greek Sign Language, (b) the use of other signs for reference to persons and self, and (c) the existence of reversal errors in the child’s early use of pointing. Data consist of video-recorded spontaneous interaction between a deaf boy and his family every fortnight from the age of 12 to 36 months. Thirty hours of the child’s communicative behaviour have been transcribed and all sequences that included pointing were analysed in terms of reference and function.This study confirms that language modality plays a restricted role in language acquisition. The time and the frequency of occurrence of pronominal pointing signs correspond to the general developmental pattern observed in the acquisition of ASL. However, there are also important differences: (a) common nouns and proper names are used for reference to others before the acquisition of pronominal pointing, but to a limited extent (b) the existence of only one erroneous pointing sign indicates that the deaf child, from the beginning, uses pronominal signs correctly, and (c) there is no evidence of discontinuity in the transition from the early communicative pointing gesture to pronominal pointing signs.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Languages and linguistics; Sign language; deaf children; Greek Sign Language; personal pronouns; pointing; pointing signs; reference; sign language acquisition; Sign Language; teckenspråk


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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