Pointing to self and people

Earlier at 12 months (week 4) I noticed that Juli had pointed to herself with an index finger sometimes, especially when reading that specific book with her.

The video clip above (from 12 months old, week 3) shows Juli pointing to herself. I had been pointing to her when reading that book with her several times.

The 13-month-old baby, sitting in her high chair, listened, while I signed ix-me mother love you juli [Mother (me) loves you, Juli]. Juli turned around and pointed to the picture of herself on the refrigerator. Then, she pointed to herself. Did I believe what I saw? She pointed to herself when I pointed to her.

Sure enough, next day or two at the ASL Mother Goose playgroup, an ASL-speaking teacher "Nyla" signed to Juli Mother love you Juli. Father love you Juli. Who juli?. Juli pointed to herself with a grin. She again pointed to herself.

A week later, Grandma Z pointed to a couple of photographs of Juli and asked who?. Juli pointed to herself. This took place at Grandma's home.

On that same day, Juli later pointed to the same pictures and pointed to herself. It occurred more than a few times. Likewise for the photographs of herself on the fridge at Grandma Z's home.

Pointing at people

Fast forward, 15-months-old Juli's father turned on TV and booted up a PS3. As soon as the screen revealed a background picture of Juli and her mother myself. Juli excitedly pointed to the screen and pointed to herself, identifying herself in the photograph (background screen).

Then, Juli pointed at the screen and produced mother ("A" handshape). She turned her gaze at me who observed from the kitchen and pointed at me excitedly.

What followed was that she pointed at me and then herself repeating a few times as in "you and me". Throughout this session, she pointed with a straight arm, very clearly pointing.

At this stage, her pointing at people is very clear, unmistaken. But, it is a pre-linguistic gestural communication. I'm very curious about how it will transition into a linguistic pronominal symbol during the two-word stage of language development.

Acquisition of pointing in sign language

Two research studies show a different result about a period between age 1 and 18 months in gestural pointing and linguistic pointing. In one study (Dr. Petitto), pointing to people may drop at the stage between age one and 18 months.

But, a research study in Greek Sign Language shows that there is a smooth transition from pointing (as a prelinguistic gesture) to linguistic (pronominal) pointing without dropping.

Juli's case falls within the similar study as that of the Greek Sign Langauge. But, a number of subjects in these studies is very small. It may not reflect a larger population of infants exposed to native signing environment.


Anne Baker, Bencie Woll. Sign language acquisition. Pp 41-43.

Marianna Hatzopoulou. "The Emergence of Pronominal Pointing in Greek Sign Language."

Dr. Laura Pettito. "On the autonomy of language and gesture: Evidence from the acquisition of personal pronouns in American 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.