CLOSE

The emergence of ASL negation "not"

A few weeks ago, I noticed that even without using the ASL word "not", the toddler Juli demonstrated an emerging concept of the negation "not" that was different from "no".

For example, I observed the patterns in sentences that Juli used the headshake for the concept "not" rather than "no" in these sentence. I suspected that she would use the ASL word not in substitute of headshake very soon.

Sure enough, lately Juli began to use the ASL word not several times and cannot this week.

For example, last week her father was very sick for a whole week that he couldn't come to see Juli. One day, Juli asked about him and I told her that he was still sick. Juli replied, father not sick. ("He's not sick.") I told her, "Unfortunately, it's true." in ASL.

During the first week of Juli's 3rd birthday, I told Juli that her father would come to see her. Juli looked at me, father [headshake] not sick. I nodded, "Right, now he's not sick." This time, Juli had used a sentence with negation.

Linguistic studies show that ASL-signing children acquired ASL negative signs but didn't use the headshake until later. D Anderson and Reilly (1997) discovered that "gestural/communicative and linguistic headshakes are mediated by two independents systems, each with a different developmental course." (Emmorey, 184)

As they explain: "The linguistic negative headshake is bound to the negative ASL words. It's a grammatical marker as part of a linguistic system." At the moment, Juli used headshake and "not" somehow separately then eventually bound together.

Another new thing during Juli's 3rd birthday was that Juli used the ASL word "cannot" in her sentence ix-me cannot fly. She was trying to fly with her floating birthday balloon after watching Curious George earlier about the George flying with the kite.

Eventually in the next weeks and onward, Juli has been using "not" regularly in her daily language.

Language development

Juli and I watched an app being downloaded on our tablet. Juli signed waiting + downloading.

One day, Juli playfully threw a small amount of the organic cocoa powder onto me, which displeased me. She whispered sorry for throw-on your shirt.

Grandma Z left for home after babysitting Juli. Later, Juli pointed at the Lego construction and told me, Mom, grandma made ix-this.

One night, Juli was about to be ready for her bedtime. Then she suddenly remembered, ix-me forget to-eat. Likewise, the other night she signed ix-me forget to-brush-teeth.

Some of the following new words or phrases that Juli used this week: later.. tomorrow and some more shown in the video above.

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.