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Preschooler using more wh- questions in sign language

The bilingual preschooler Juli (age 3;7) began to ask "why" questions in American Sign Language.

First, I tossed something in the sink and Juli asked me why you throw ix-ref. Later that same week, I returned my candle holder to its original place after she fidgeted with it. She again asked why you put-it-there in ASL.

Two "whys" during that week suggested the emergence of asking a why question. Asking why questions is a normal developmental milestone for 3- and 4-year-old preschoolers.

In the next weeks, Juli asked questions using "why" increasingly. For examples. One day she noticed a different sarong covering the chair. She noted ix new. I nodded. She asked Why ix-ref.

Another time, she asked me, why you put remote-control up in-there, why?. No need to answer her question. She knew why.

In the meanwhile, she also used something/someone sometimes in parallel.

Asking "how" question in sign language

A few weeks later (age 3;7), Juli asked for a band-aid and struggled to open it. She asked how open ix(this) band-aid? I showed her. She replied, oh!

Wiggling question

Juli (3;2) had asked me a yes/no question many times, even though her questions are a statement because she hadn't developed facial grammar or facial intonation to indicate a question. I instinctively understood her.

But, one day I decided to encourage her to use a wiggling question, which is an ASL sign for a question marker which can be accompanied with a required facial grammar for question. Whenever Juli asked me a question, I asked her to use the ASL sign "question".

Shortly, Juli did use the wiggling question one day when she asked me a yes/no question.

Language development

Some of the following examples that Juli had uttered during this month in August: careful, keep and some more.

She insisted me to let her touch the glass ball and tried to assure me, ix-me very-careful ix-ref(glass).

Juli used "about" in her sentence, ix-me sad about father.

One morning, she and I talked about fire safety. I asked her, if there were fire in this house, what would you do? I explained that she must inform me immediately. She asked a conditional question, if fire in school, do-do? I replied, Tell teacher really-fast.

Related posts

Also see Age 1: answering wh-questions

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.