Language impairments in sign language: breakthroughs and puzzles

Morgan, G., Herman, R. & Woll, B. (2007). Language impairments in sign language: breakthroughs and puzzles. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(1), pp. 97-105. doi: 10.1080/13682820600783178

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Abstract

Short Report.

Background:
Specific Language Impairment (SLI) has previously solely been documented for children acquiring spoken languages despite informal reports of deaf children with possible sign language disorder.

Aims:
This research evaluates current theories of SLI in light of cases of sign language impairment. Current explanations for SLI include deficits in processing the acoustic signal, phonological short-term memory
and grammatical computation.

Methods:
We report the case of a deaf child deaf exposed to British Sign Language (BSL) from birth with no cognitive or social impairments, with significant developmental deficits in the comprehension and production of BSL grammar but not phonology or vocabulary, based on formal assessment and linguistic analyses of his everyday sign communication in comparison with age matched unimpaired signers.

Results:
We show that linguistic processing difficulties with BSL verb morphology underlie the child’s poor performance compared with same-age native signers.

Conclusions:
SLI in children exposed to a soundless language is not explainable by deficits in the auditory processing of the speech signal. The appearance of linguistic impairments in sign and spoken languages in comparable domains provides evidence that some types of SLI involve higher-level problems with the abstract epresentation of rules and grammar.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Morgan, G, Herman, R & Woll, B (2007). Language impairments in sign language: breakthroughs and puzzles. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(1), pp. 97-105., which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1080/13682820600783178/. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords: British Sign Language, Development, Disorder
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: School of Health Sciences > Department of Language & Communication Science
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/13316

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