First language acquisition
Reflexive pronouns usually emerge within 36-48 months (age 3-4) in spoken language, specifically English, such as "myself" and "herself". Within the same timeline, reflexive pronouns also emerge in sign language.
Those days the ASL-speaking bilingual preschooler Juli (age 3;3) had become more independent that she wanted to do things by herself. She would sign, me, me, me!. In these contexts, I knew it was time to introduce her to the concept of a reflexive pronoun in ASL.
Whenever Juli got off the car, she would want to close the door herself by signing me, me, me!. I took the opportunity of this teachable moment to introduce her to myself for the first time.
In no time, Juli uttered myself!! whenever she wanted to do by herself in several new contexts. For example, as I was about to help her with putting a pen in the holder, she stopped me, myself!
To confirm whether she really understand the concept of reflexive pronouns, I was waiting for the day she signed yourself. A week or two later, sure enough, she told me yourself! when she wanted me to do it myself.
Juli (age 3;4) had begun to use a demonstrative pronoun that from time to time.
When I picked up Juli at preschool one day, Juli first told me in ASL, ix-me not like ix boy cl-spinning. ix-me not like THAT! where she signed "that" with a strong emphasis.
Juli continued the demonstrative pronoun THAT from time to time. One day (age 3;7), she jumped from the "table" at the park. She did a little challenging jump a few times. After she jumped higher and landed, she signed that hard ("That was hard.")
At age 3;9, Juli asked for a TV show, IX-me WANT-to WATCH BIG RED DOG. D(signed name) IX HAVE #TV BIG RED DOG. I WANT-to WATCH !THAT!. I asked, YOU MEAN fs-CLIFFORD? She nodded with bright eyes.
Juli (age 3;5) had begun to use singular third-person pronouns such as he/she and his/her when referents were not present. Note that there is no gender in pronouns in ASL.
In the past, she used third-person pronouns with some physical referents. For example, she used a door or a window as a present referent of someone who was absent. E.g. she signed grandmother "ix-she" (in the direction toward the present door for "IX-she").
Then, Juli used the third-person pronouns when the referents were not present and she didn't use physical presence of the referents to point at.
One morning, Juli asked me where grandfather was, where grandfather? ix-he here. She used the right-handed space. At first I was puzzled that she was kind of expecting grandfather around here. Juli explained, grandfather his gray car ix-there ("Grandpa's gray car is over there"). She thought that the rented car parked on my driveway belonged to the grandfather.
Juli (age 3;6) listened to me telling a story in ASL at bedtime as I read the "Sleeping Beauty" to her at nights. She picked up me using referential listing when I talked about three fairies and their names.
A few nights later, Juli told me about her day at bedtime. She signed ix-me saw firefigther truck and ambulance, siren ix-there downtown. Three: 1) firefighter 2) ambulance 3) police. Firefighter (truck) stopped, siren none. Helps people. Water dangerous!.
Several days ago, I used the listing of three civil services: firefighter, police, and ambulance. I was surprised that she remembered this only once and used it herself later on.
One night at age 3;7, I stood in the bedroom to see that Juli got in her bed. As she passed the doorway, she paused. She signed, ix-me forget something. I didn't get it at first because I hadn't seen her using "something" before. She repeated it. I asked what did she forget? She replied, ix-me forget to-bathe. two-us (you and me) go-to bath(room).
That same day, Juli signed many, many mice. The indefinite pronoun "something" was something new she used; however, other common indefinite pronouns that
Juli had routinely used prior to using the "something/someone" pronoun in ASL were #all, another/other, none/nothing, and many pretty naturally for the previous months that I didn't recognize as the firsts. However, now "something/someone" was something that stoood out among the indefinite pronouns.
Around that time, Juli was also seen using the signed word first. E.g. first put-on shoes.
Juli began to use an indefinite pronoun something/someone sometimes. Note that the ASL signed "something" and "someone" are about the same production.
For some examples, one day Juli and I were sitting under a table in a toy store. A garbage under the table fell down. Juli looked around and signed something fell-down. She looked under and I followed, ah. We both signed garbage.
Another day, she was scared in her dram and woke up. She signed something huge fell-down.
At age 3;7, Juli was seen sometimes using another/other and some. For example, I asked her about her classmate, you see (signed name) in your class?. She replied, ix-he in another class.
Another time, Juli noted some juices bad, some juices good, healthy.
Juli also was observed, using a plural pronoun you-two. In her early acquisition, she used YOU + ME.
Juli (age 3;7) fondly recalled remember horse two-us.. ix-me will bring/give horse carrot next time. horse want share. rabbit eat.. rabbit eat carrot; horse want share rabbit('s) carrot. She was horse-riding that summer.
At age 3;9, Juli told me, ix-me like father and you, both-of-you (using the "2" handshape for the plural).
New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.
Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.
Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)
Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.
This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.