Priority Grants Research Fund

Abstracts of Priority Research Project Funded for FY 2015

Mary Thumann
Linguistics
Examining the Use of Depiction across American Sign Language Proficiency Interview Assessment Levels
Marlon Kuntze
Education
Insight from Child ASL on the questionable distinction between gesture and lexical sign

NEW GRANTS

Examining the Use of Depiction across American Sign Language Proficiency Interview Assessment Levels

Principal Investigator:
Mary Thumann
Department of Linguistics, Gallaudet University

Examining the Use of Depiction across American Sign Language Proficiency Interview Assessment Levels addresses Research Priorities #1, Development of Signed Language Fluency and #8, Linguistics of Signed Languages. The linguistic feature to be investigated is depiction, “the ability to visually represent semantic components” (Dudis, 2007:1). The aim of this research is to determine how depiction usage compares among signers of different ASLPI levels in order to gain a better understanding of types of depiction evidenced at various levels of proficiency and identify problem areas related to depiction usage of less skilled signers.

Throughout this project, designed to bridge the gap of information between assessment of language proficiency and features of depiction that need to be taught, the research team will analyze language samples from individuals assessed at each level of proficiency on the ASLPI. Using ELAN to compare depiction usage between signers, the research team will identify patterns and gain insight into the type and occurrence of depiction usage at various levels of fluency from newer signers to proficient signers. This information can later be applied to a larger project to include development of curriculum and teaching materials for ASL, development of strategies to enhance assessment of ASL, and ultimately lead to improving language proficiency.

CONTINUED GRANTS

Insight from Child ASL on the questionable distinction between gesture and lexical sign

Principal Investigator:
Marlon Kuntze
Department of Education, Gallaudet University

In this study, video data will be used to formulate a more complete understanding of linguistic development in young deaf children. Specifically, certain items and components will be extracted from the data and subjected to various linguistic analyses. These items and components will be chosen based on being commonly considered gesture or gestural in the field of ASL linguistics. Categories of these items/components are the following: emblems, classifiers, surrogates, and nonmanual components. Each of the categories will be assessed on how they behave linguistically in terms of phonology, morphology, semantics, stability of form, and iconicity.

The transcription of the data will be done using the Berkeley Transcription System (Slobin et al., 2001) as it has the power to codify each morpheme in a sign. The BTS uses the CHAT format (Mac Whitney, 2000), which will make it possible to use the CLAN software program to quantify the findings. The BTS will help show the different ways the items in question may be made more morphologically complex; what components are incorporated making the lexical item morphologically complex; and how items are capitalized upon to produce classifiers and surrogates.

Historically, the separation of gesture and language was conveniently based on the modality distinction between spoken language as aurally based and gesture as visually based. The dawn of sign language research as a study of visually-based languages paradoxically perpetuated the distinction between language and gesture. An important objective in early ASL research was to make a case that ASL is indeed a bona fide language, thus inadvertently maintaining the distinction. Currently, researchers like Kendon (2008), McNeill (1992), and Sweetser (2009) are arguing that gesture and language are a product of the same cognitive structure. In fact, when used in conjunction with speech, the potential of gesture to function as a linguistic unit is limited. Only by using gesture as the sole mode of communication, will its use become free and allowed to evolve and become more language-like (see McNeill, 1992). This phenomenon may account for the historical roots of many of the world’s signed languages (Armstrong, Stokoe, & Wilcox, 1994).


[Last modified: 2015.09.02 13:07:23. by Brian Showalter]

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