The baby Juli's first birthday.
Juli just got a promotion to the forward-facing car seat. This was one of the significant milestones in our eyeing culture. Also I removed the baby's rear-mirror, another cultural artifact.
Juli produced "motorboat" raspberries or razzies (different from the past) usually when whining. Vocally produced "hello" when playing with her father's smartphone. Also produced a vocal gesture "oww" when hurt.
It was amazing to watch Juli unfolding obscure productions (what were once thought of as babbles) into more recognizable ASL words. Also, sometimes she imitated or produced a ASL word right away when I uttered to her an ASL word.
Juli ate some pieces of a melon for the past few days. I introduced the ASL word to her. Lately, she produced: right-handed open palm onto left-handed top of the hand, moving twice.
One Monday evening in highchair Juli produced the same when she pointed to the melon cubes in a bowl on the countertop on her left side. Then later, she uttered the same when she pointed and/or gazed at some canteloupe and honeydew (I tended to cluster them all into the "melon" family).
Other words that Juli imitated when we signed were: comb-hair (Juli produced with left-handed index-finger moving down her head), cook, scared, and some others.
One day I gave Juli a new book "Lift and Learn". Juli produced herself the ASL word apple with the distinct (and correct) movement (left-handed) when she came across an image of two apples.
"Is that right?" I thought. First, I had never seen her uttering apple before.
Second, it was the first time she looked at that image (and that book), that is, in a new context.
Third, we hadn't eaten an apple in a very long time except for once a little while ago.
A few days later, I finally captured her production (right-handed this time) on video. Sure enough, she produced the same. Babies do have good memories.
The ASL words melon, penguin, and apple were the ones that Juli uttered them herself without me signing when she came across the images.
I'm comparing Juli's language acquisition stages with research studies. Two research studies show a different result about a period between age 1 and 18 months in gestural pointing and linguistic pointing.
0;9-1;0 (age of 9 months to age 1): Pointing: Non-linguistic pointing to self, other people, and object appears.
1;0-1;5 -- Pronominal reference, vocabulary: Pointing to people may drop out in this period, although pointing to objects is maintained.
The first true signs appear at this stage. There is often over-generalization (e.g. car used to refer to cars and buses).
Pointing to people may drop at the stage between age one and 18 months. But, research in Greek Sign Language shows that there is a smooth transition from pointing (as a prelinguistic gesture) to linguistic (pronominal) pointing without dropping.
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.
Pointing is not just pointing to refer to something. It is significant because it creates a triangle between you, the baby, and the object.
For example, when a baby holds an object, like a rattle, you talk about it to her/him without pointing. The baby would only focus on the rattle he's holding or focus on you. She/he doesn't create a triangle that involves you, him/her, and the rattle.
By the time, the baby can point, she/he can draw you into what she/he is interested in. It creates a triangle.
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."
Pointing is prevalent across ages. A range of the purpose of pointing is from localization (to specify a direction, distance, and location) to early language development (to specify an object to be named).
Pointing and use of deictic in ASL is no different. I will observe Juli's deictic usage in ASL in the next months and years.
Anne Baker, Bencie Woll. Sign language acquisition. Pp 41-43.
Marianna Hatzopoulou. "The Emergence of Pronominal Pointing in Greek Sign Language." http://access.uoa.gr/gw2011/proceedingsFiles/GW2011_31.pdf
Dan Isaac Slobin. The Cross Linguistic Study of Language Acquisition: Theoretical issues, Volume 2. Pp. 895-896
Dr. Laura Pettito. "On the autonomy of language and gesture: Evidence from the acquisition of personal pronouns in American Sign Language" http://petitto.gallaudet.edu/~petitto/archive/Cognition1987.pdf
Got a story to tell your experience and share it with others? Send an email to Handspeak. I'd love to hear about it, too.
The hard-of-hearing baby just turned one year old. He signed "horse" in ASL.
You may be also interested in two-word utterance stage in sign language.
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.