Combining gestural pointing with ASL signed words

Pointing-and-naming was all the rage this week (m11w4). Juli grew more interested in pointing and naming.

With the use of pointing, Juli grew having a sense of the privilege of having a choice. She picked the food over the other on the table by pointing.

Juli pointed to some images in books, seemingly random. Each time she pointed to an image in the book and turned her attention to me. I articulated an ASL word for each. She continued on -- turning the page, pointing, and looking at me (listening) for me to articulate an ASL word.

In the video clip below, I showed her the tiny cats in the Goodnight Moon and uttered ASL word cat. It was one of many pointing-and-naming activities. And, I immediately forgot about it.

Then every morning, daytime and night, whenever she opened the book Goodnight Moon, Juli took a special notice of same tiny cats in different pages. Juli pointed to them and I uttered cat. Again in other pages. I wondered why.

When I edited this video clip and realized what I did -- I taught her the day or so before. Juli remembered and probably checked for consistent information. It reminds me of the concept of "object permanence" and I called it the concept of "word permanence."

Word Permanence:

Next day and day (m11w1), Juli pointed to the new images randomly -- unfamilar images in the picture book and looked to me. I uttered words in ASL. Why unfamiliar images? Just to see if everything has a name?

Beside that, she also pointed to the same images that she had pointed in previous days. Did she check for consistency?

Deixis (noun), deictic (adjective): Of, relating to, or denoting a word or expression whose meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used, e.g., here, you, me, that one there, or next Friday.

A researcher in a 12-month longitudinal study in Spain videotaped interactions of 1- and 2-year-old (hearing) children with their non-signing mothers in their homes. The findings were as follows:

When those children at between 12 months and 24 months pointed at an object, they also vocalized like "ga."

At about 18 months, pointing is combined with a word such as "doll" or "horse."

At about 21 months, the children pointed along with the deictic words such as "there", "that", "this", and "here."

At around 24 months, the children would combine the object's name plus the deictic word. E.g. "That's a tree."

A study case

Gestural pointing first emerged for direction just before the baby Juli turned 9 months old. Then at 9 months, Juli pointed to pictures, objects, and such for names or words in ASL.

(0;11,3) Juli's father, holding her in his arm, pointed to the image and vocally said "That's mama." He redirected her pointing toward me as I stood next to them. He told her, "That is mama."

Next thing Juli responded by pointing at the image. Then she redirected and maintained her pointing finger toward me. It looked like an imitation but it never occurred to me that she imitated.

Juli (at 11;4) just began to combine gestural pointing with a signed word.

In the last month of her first year, gestural pointing became more developed such as multi-pointing, pointing to persons, and combining gestural pointing with ASL words. Gestural pointing with a spoken word is a typical milestone at around 12 months or first birthday. This milestone is no exception in sign language.

Pointing and "that-one"

(m12w5) In the near past, Juli pointed with an index finger to indicate which object she wanted from her highchair. I would go to the countertop and pointed to an object after another. I tried to teach her to use "yes" or "no" gestures (e.g. nodding or shaking head). Juli seemed to have learned how to develop her own language to indicate "yes" -- in another word, "that-one!".

Now I can observe clearly when Juli (11;4) uses finger-pointing and a "that-one" handshape. I'd point to an object among other objects on the countertop and then point to another object after another object until Juli changes her handshape to the 5-handshape or open hand with intonation (wider eyes, more reaching hand, etc).

In another word, it suggests a "that's the one!" gesture, not yet using an ASL word "THAT".

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.