Toddler signing ASL role-shifting pronouns

A fleeting moment was shocking that not only did Juli (2;0,4) inflect an ASL verb ask but also she made the correct role shift (pronoun).

What happened was that Juli grabbed my shirt and articulated milk, milk!. I explained her that she should ask me politely for some milk -- in which the indicating verb I used was ask-me.

As I was signing to her, Juli observed and imitated some ASL productions. As I came across the indicating verb ask-me, Juli imitated ask-me, err! ask-you. It was a perfect and clear production yet at the same time a fleeting moment.

Several weeks ago, Juli had been identifying whose things were. She'd point at an object (e.g. a toothbrush, a towel, a camera, a DVD disc, etc.) and uttered mother('s) or father('s).

Or, she might ask a question whose this object belonged to. If she wasn't right, I'd reply "No, it's mother's (or father's)." Of course, in ASL.

Then, Juli had acquired the use of ASL possessive pronouns with reversal errors. In no time, she learned the role shifting. She oriented her palm orientation toward herself for "mine" rather than signing ASL regular "mine". Interesting logical thinking process of the toddler.

Now Juli had been using correct role shifts in possessive pronouns yours and mine. Juli also consistently produced a third-person possessive pronoun correctly (e.g. his/her or his/hers).

A week later (2;1,1), Juli continued to use possessive pronouns ("hers/his", "yours", and "mine") more often with correct role shifting.

Juli still turned her wrist (palm orientation) to face herself for "mine" instead of producing the regular ASL word "mine". It is a very interesting phenomenon and creative language development of hers.

One day Juli produced "yours" toward me as well as "mother's" when she noted that the object (DVD disc) was mine.

One night, Juli couldn't sleep so she decided to sit up on my lap to have a little conversation. She talked about what she saw outside -- light, home, stars.

Then, she looked at her little clothes in the open closet. She uttered ix-loc clothes ix mine.

Another day, Juli took out my feminine thing and inspected it. She looked at me, ix-it mother('s), ix yours.

These examples are a few of many scenarios that were clear to me that she understood the role shifts of the possessive pronouns.

Language development

The following referential words and phrases that Juli used this week: doctor use-stethoscope, boy sad, one more, father fix, earth, woman and man (both correct productions), honey make bee, some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

Related posts

Also see pronoun reversal error.

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.