From shaking head to answering "no" in sign language

At the turn of 18 months old, the baby Juli shaking head began to emerge. A couple of weeks later, she was shaking head more. It was not clear that she referred the shaking head to "no", but it was more of practicing shaking head in the form of babbling.

Note that shaking head is not exactly an ASL word/sign. It is more of an interjection and/or a gesture.

One bedtime Juli (18 months old) manipulated a new shirt with the hanger inside it. She accidentally took the hanger out. She couldn't put it back in. Juli looked at me and asked for help. Okay, I was about to help her put the shirt over her head.

She raised her hands and shook her head. She pointed at the hanger lying on the floor. Oh, I got it. She wanted me to help put the hanger back inside the shirt.

As I reached the hanger, I suddenly realized that Juli was shaking her head that meant "no" for the first time that I recognized. It was an exciting moment!

Sure enough, from there on, Juli sometimes shook her head to express "no" or when she didn't want something.

Toddler answering with the ASL word "no"

At age 1;9, Juli answered yes with the ASL sign YES.

Three months later (1;11,2), Juli appeared to attempt to nod but sometimes ended up shaking head. On the other hand, as soon as she shook head by accident, she quickly switched to uttering yes in ASL. (see video)

One Sunday this week Juli answered with an ASL word #no. Grandma Z asked Juli if she wanted (something I don't recall). Juli replied #no.

Next day on the Christmas Eve, I asked Juli if she wanted to bathe. She replied #no. Few more times later, she answered the same.

On the boxing day, I asked Juli whether she wanted to try on her new red coat. She replied #no. I asked again and she replied the same. I asked again. Seeing that I didn't get it, she switched to shaking head.

Language development

The following referential words and phrases that Juli used this week: milk upstairs , candy fall broke (told her father a story about the broken candy cane), elephant, rewind, no, some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

Communication strategy

Juli was absorbed in playing with miniatures under the Christmas tree. One of her favorites was the half-body angel miniature that she always put it in the back of the sledge along with the pot and another object (both also miniatures).

Next morning, Juli asked for an object by producing it that I didn't get it. It was new that Grandma Z taught her the day before. She repeatedly asked for it and pointed to the sledge.

Juli, seeing that I didn't get it, looked up high at the Christmas tree and pointed at it. Again, I didn't get it. I asked Juli, show-me. I lifted her up and she pointed to a different angel ornament in the tree. Ah!

Juli again pointed at the empty space in the sledge and uttered angel. I got it! I asked her in ASL (translated as), "Are you looking for the missing angel miniature?" She nodded. I helped Juli looking and looking for the angel.

Talking in private

The toddler Juli's sense of privacy developed. She sometimes closed the door to keep me out so that she could do something.

Everyone had a conversation at Christmas dinner. Juli came to me and tapped on me to get my attention. I asked what was it she wanted. She took my hand and led me to the hallway.

Stopping in the hallway, Juli asked Ash? Ash?. She had been looking for her but couldn't find her. I helped her find Ash.

This documentation project follows a baby's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, week by week from gazing at birth to manual babbling, to first words just before the first birthday in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.

The second-year and third-year documentation continues to follow the same child's language and phonological acquisition and literacy development in ASL on a weekly basis from the one-word stage to two-word and multiple utterances.

The documentary continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age three to four. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.

These posts on ASL-English bilingualism, language acquisition, and bilingual education may be of an interest for parents who raise a bilingual-bimodal child in ASL (or another signed language) and English (or another written and/or spoken language of its respective) as well as informative and educational for ASL specialists, educators, and professionals.