Darndest cute: ASL language development at age 4

Four months after the preschooler Juli's 4th birthday, her language in our native language (American Sign Language) bloom was noticeable. Talking (of course, all in ASL) became easier and we can see the world through her lens. Some selected conversations are memorable. Everything in conversations described below was conducted in ASL.

A loving message

One fresh spring morning, as I parked in the lane at the parking lot of a preschool, I turned around and checked on Juli. Out of blue sky, she told me, IX-me NOT WANT YOU to-DIE. Oh, aww, why? I asked. She replied, WHY-conj IX-me LOVE YOU. That was beautiful.

3-dimensional longing

That same morning before leaving home, Juli (age 4;3) experimented something. She drew a picture with the image of a door in it. She wanted to open it. Frustrated, she couldn't.

I nodded, explaining that it is flat, 2-dimensional. It would have to be 3-dimensional, pulled up into 3-dimensional. Juli pondered and replied, NEED to-BAKE-in-OVEN, CL5-pull-up. Dangerous and not possible. She replied with a nostalgic thought, IX-me WANT IN IX PICTURE. She wanted to be in the picture.

The Fairy

Juli believed that there was a fairy around. She would point her finger to the fairy for taking a missing thing or breaking something. One day, she said (signed, of course) that the fairy lived up far in the sky. She wanted to go there. But how? She wondered. (spring time)

Loving messgages

Juli would sometimes tell me, sometime++ you make me mad, sometime++ you make me sad, sometime++ you make me happy, sometime++ you make me laugh! sometime++ ix-me make-funny-face but ix-me always love you That was the book's influence on her. If she missed the last line, I'd ask, "But?" She realized the last part, But I always love you. (spring time/May)

preschooler's first written sentence
Juli's first written sentence, "Mom Julianna u love." That is, "I love you, Mom." May 27th.

Night's lightning and the bird

One morning on the last day of May, Juli and I watched outside through the bedroom window. We talked about the night before of lightnings and thunders. How terrified we were by one strong thunder that vibrated like a earthquake through our bedroom floor.

Juli pondered out the window and told me, ix-me hear bird singing. now ix spring. In moments, a little song bird flew onto the lower roof below our window. I quickly gestured "Shh!", signed bird, and pointed to it. Juli looked at it with a smile. The bird flew away in no time.

Juli turned to me, why you shh! ix window huh? I laughed, there-you right. you very-good point! I took this teachable moment to introduce the concept of "good point" in this context. I repeated, "Good point."

Jul smiled, ix-me win. Yep, I nodded.

Giving birth to many, many babies

In June (age 4;5), Juli looked at her small birth mark. She commented, IX-me WILL GIVE-BIRTH-to BABY. Huh? She continued, YOU WILL GIVE-BIRTH-to MANY+++ BABY. I shook my head, no way. I told her, JUST YOU, ONLY YOU ENOUGH. She insisted the same. I asked why? She explained, BECAUSE YOU HAVE MANY++ CL:F-DOT-ALL-OVER-BODY+++ (freckles). Ah, the English word "birth" in "birth marks." So babies are produced from birth marks. Juli is imaginative and often jokes.

Several minutes later, out of curiosity, I asked her how do people make babies? Juli replied, HMM, MOTHER MARRY FATHER, THEN SOMETHING-FLY-POINT-INTO-ARM/BODY THEN BORN BABY.

Vocabulary at age 4;5

Juli (4;5) was seen using some vocabulary such as:

Juli told me one day, ix-me know more than you.

Juli just learned to ride on her old second generation bicycle without support. One day she and I went out for a bicycling ride. She stopped pedalling and told me, IX-ME FORGET to-BRING MY #MAP where the lexicalized loan #MAP was vague but I recognized this fingerspelling configuration within this context. I asked why? She replied, IF LOST, CHECK MAP. Her map was her imaginary drawing left at home.

Juli replied does-not-matter when I told her that she didn't write her name neatly inside a new book "Just My Father and Me" to be gifted for her father's day.

Juli held a bubble blower in her hands. I looked at the high shelf of the closet and asked her how did she get it. She shrugged, fairy give-me me.

One day, Juli and I rode our bicycles. She stopped in front of a house in our neighborhood. She signed ix-me want to-move in ix(house). I asked why? She explained, cat there. Ah, as if it's easier to move in the house for that cat who lives there instead of getting one in our own home.:)

Other abstract concepts that Juli was seen articulating several times in ASL are: IX-ME CANNOT DECIDE,

Speaking dinosaur

One day Juli (age 4;7) told me in ASL (talking about her dream, I think), Dinosaur can vocally-speak.. I asked, English?. Hmm, she thought. I explained, some vocally-speak Spanish, some German, French, ASL..

She looked at me and signed, Hi you!. Puzzled, I replied, What? Not "Hi you". She explained, IX-me different language, hee. Ah, you clever.

A gray house

Juli (5;9) told me (all in ASL, of course) (translated as):

JZ (signed name) told me (invited me) to sleep over her house.
Told JZ, "No, my mom doesn't know your house."
JZ told me, "My house is gray."
Her house is gray. You need to find her house. It's gray.

A kid's early concept of the address. How easy to say?! But how hard to find?! :)

More children's cute sayings

Cat meowing: "My deaf child and I were in a swimming pool and her cat was walking around the edge of the pool meowing at her. I told her he was meowing and she told me 'I know, I can read his lips.'" -- Peggy Mills, USA. February 27, 2000.

Related posts

Related posts: Age 5: language development at age 5.

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.