First language acquisition

Preschooler expressing time concepts in sign language

The earliest Juli expressed a concept of time was at age 2;11 (a month before her third birthday), using the hour of time for her bedtime, "one hour", "now", and "later". These were her earliest time-related terms in ASL.

Approaching a bedtime one night, I reminded Juli (age 2;11), time six now. bed soon, #ok. Juli responded, six [headshake], ten [nodding].

Another night, I reminded Juli in ASL, translated as, "It's eight o'clock now. You're late for your bedtime." Juli replied, ten in ASL.

Next night, I told Juli, "It's eight now. Time for bed now." Juli shook head, ten!.

These days, I've been talking about time a lot, usually hour-based, omitting the minute part. Basic o-clock times.

Sure enough, Juli continued to express some more time-related concepts in the next week -- the last week of age two. For example, Juli used a new time-related concepts in ASL now and later.

One day puzzle pieces were scattered around on the table. Juli asked me, now ix-you pick-ix ("now you pick one of these puzzle pieces").

Another, Juli wanted to have a bath. I explained, Shower first; then, bath. Juli had a shower for a while. Then she decided, ix-me want bath now.

Juli wanted to watch TV. I told her in ASL, translated as "No TV. Do something else like reading a book or such." She replied, later book. I answered, #no, not later. Juli begged, promise little.

I'm not sure if Juli understood the concept of one hour, but I've used it several times to limit her TV time to one hour only. One day, Juli insisted me to join in her bath. She suggested, ix-you bathe ix-here one-hour. As stubborn as her, I declined. She repeatedly begged one-hour.. one-hour.. one-hour.

One Tuesday, (age 3;3) Juli's father dropped her off and told her that he would see her again on Thursday. I didn't mention about it till Wednesday night at a bedtime. Juli commented, tomorrow ix-me go with father. Did I see her signing "tomorrow"? I asked her to repeat. Sure enough, she signed tomorrow. Not only she used the ASL word tomorrow, but also she used the correct reference to the next day after her father told her the day before.

At age 3;4, Juli had uttered: not tomorrow! not tomorrow! now! (when she was upset that we'd go to a store the next day, not that day), one moment, little early (she commented when we entered her class).

Later at age 3;6, Juli read digital o'clock and tell in time in ASL. One morning, Juli asked me, hey, father come, pick-me-up time 10. I replied yes. She continued, But not now time 10 [looking at the digital clock] ix-it time 8:33). I was quite impressed.

At age 3;6 during this month in July, some of the following common usage that Juli had uttered: one-moment, wait, wait, one-moment.

At age 3;7, Juli used the ASL word before or in-the-past reguarly.


One Thursday morning, I dropped Juli (age 3;3) off at her preschool. She wanted me to stay a bit and read a book to her in ASL as usual. As I was sitting down, she talked about a birthday, today-here birthday. today-here birthday! I thought, what was she talking about? Why birthday? She emphasized, yours! today-here birthday, yours. Oh, right! How she remembered my birthday! I showed her the calendar many days ago and she had got the right sense of time, very close to the actual day. I replied, No, not today. This Saturday. Tomorrow, tomorrow Saturday. Juli insisted, No, today birthday.

Next day on Friday, Juli woke up one morning and first thing on her mind was that she wanted my birthday, two-us happy birthday. two-us go-to store, buy cake, cl-flame candle. I told her I will share my birthday with her on Saturday.

Preschooler telling o'clock in sign language

The three-year-old (3;5) learned to identify an o'clock, numerally fingerspelling the numbers. Unlike counting, she had no problem forming all numeral handshapes, including seven and eight, when identifying the time.

Initially, Juli read the digital time from right to left (just like she did in her early reading the letters from right to left). She identified the reversed shape of the digital five for two. I corrected, two. She insisted, five! I wrote down two and five on the paper and showed her the difference between two reversed shapes. She learned the numeral "minimal pairs".

In the past months, I used only the hour time. Then, with the right timeline, I began to tell the o'clock fully -- both the hour and the minute parts. I used time every day with her and she seemed to understand the general concepts and the routines in connection to time. Whenever I tell time, she looked at the digital clock.

As she approached 3.5 years old, she read time more than few times a day. She recognized two and five correctly (both same shape, only "mirrored") and she also formed the ASL numbers seven and eight correctly when recognizing seven and eight in o'click, but not when counting between six and ten.

By age 3;6, Juli was able to tell the digital time correctly in each digit. She tended to utter in ASL, what time? one two, three nine (12:39 or any time here) as if she was telling a rhetorical question and then telling the time.

During that period, I also found myself beginning to tell time in the correct ASL format -- for example, twelve, thirty-nine instead of one two, three nine. Because, during that time Juli began to count from one to fifteen (skipping the usual 9) on her own and beyond 15 with my guide.

One morning (at age 3;6), Juli asked me, hey, father come, pick-me-up time 10. I replied yes. She continued, But not now time 10 [looking at the digital clock] ix-it time 8:33). This clearly showed me that she understood a concept of time.

Expressing concepts of time

At age 3;7, I noticed that Juli used the ASL word before as in "in the past" more regularly.

For example, one day Juli was sitting on her pedal-less bicycle and bicycled through the puddles. She signed ix-me not cl-put-in ix(puddle) shoes wet.. before shoes wet. now, no. Translated as "I won't put my shoes in the puddle. In the past I did. But, I won't now." She wanted to assure me that she wouldn't get in trouble for me.

At this age, she also used tomorrow as well as now more commonly. E.g. save ice dream for tomorrow, father pick-up me tomorrow? and so on.

The other day (3;7), she insisted that she was a good girl so she asked to watch TV and she wouldn't cry (e.g. promised not to cry when time was up). I pointed out that she recently tossed the tablet. She realized, ix-me so-sorry. ix-me really-sorry and then she mumbled in ASL to herself now ix-me cannot watch #tv.

Another, Juli reflected remember horse two-us. ix-me will bring/give horse carrot next time.

Expressing the concepts of days

The preschooler (age 3;7) seemed to understand the concepts of the days of the week for a long while now but hadn't really expressed the days till then.

One day Juli woke up and told me, good morning. I told her, today saturday. She replied, Friday no school.

Juli had talked about a concept of time/day. Then one day, I checked to see if Juli understood the wh-question "when". When an opportunity arised, I asked "When?" Juli replied, "tomorrow." (age 3;11)

One early morning as I was driving Juli (age 4;2) to preschool, I told her, Look, snowy! Hey, next month/\ my birthday.

As I looked at the rearview mirror, Juli corrected me, No, easter first! Then birthday. I was surprised that she knew the order of the events across the months of the year.

Concepts of seasons

Juli liked to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. But, it was late spring and early summer, too warm. One morning Juli came to tell me, autumn day now to make an excuse to wear these clothes.

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Expressing needs and wants

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Talking about activities

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