Baby talk, first language acquisition

Baby recognizing the alphabetical and fingerspelled letters

This documentation of language acquisition in ASL highlights the early literacy development of the child "Juli" during the first 18 months.

At 12 months old, the baby Juli was first "formally" introduced to some random manual alphabetical letters. From there, I'd casually expose her to some written alphabetical letters from time to time.

During a few weeks at 13 months old, Juli pointed to the printed alphabetical letters in a picture book as if these letters were the pictures themselves. I'd show her the ASL alphabetical letters.

One day at 14 months old, I asked Juli for the first time, "Where is the J"? She pointed to the correct letter in the book. She had been learning to recognize the written alphabetical letters.

Since then, gradually I introduced a few alphabetical letters from time to time. Lately, the alphabetical letters seemed to become more comfortably recognizable.

Then at 21 months old, Juli identified most of the alphabetical letters by pointing at them when I fingerspelled an alphabetical letter.

Beside the alphabetical letters, Juli recognized the fingerspelled loans I had used for a long while. E.g. #dog, #art, #mango, etc. Less than 12 months old, Juli recognized the fingerspelled loan #foot and pointed to her foot.

Naming the alphabetical letters in sign language

The 21 months old (1;9;4) Juli recognized most of the alphabetical letters by pointing at them when I asked. At this stage, she also was able to form the handshape "R" non-linguistically, that is crossing the two fingers.

For the first time, I thought perhaps I should point at the letter R and ask Juli, "What's this?" I hadn't thought of this earlier. Sure enough, Juli replied R!

Next I pointed at the magnetic letter "A" and asked what it was. Juli readily replied A. These two letters were formed perfectly.

Next letter one by one I asked Juli who replied each. Understandably, most of the alphabetical letters were not phonologically developed ready for her age, even though she could perceive them well. For example, she could perceive the letter U and produced it but her manual development wasn't on par with her perception.

Juli was able to produce some letters which were not formed correctly yet. For example, she could produce the letter J with the index finger instead of the pinkie.

Juli's ability to form the letter R before the letters U or V somehow made sense to me that crossing the fingers helped pull and hold the fingers together in shape. Because, Juli couldn't hold the pinkie and the ring finger close while forming the letters U and V.

Though, Juli practiced forming the letter "U". She helped herself closing the index and middle fingers.

Toddler forming the handshapes B and O

At 22 months, the toddler Juli learned to manipulate her fingers more. She also picked up some new signed words.

The alphabetical letter B was the easiest to work on as she learned to close her four fingers together and her thumb inside. As she attempted to form the letter B, her index and middle finger sometimes crossed.

Juli also produced the letter O as easy as the letter B, but probably a bit easier than the letter B.

Then in the following week (1;10,3), Juli formed the alphabetical letter D correctly, but sometimes she formed it like the index finger.

She indeed recognized the alphabetical letters and their corresponding alphabetical handshapes, but her manual development wasn't developing fully for the more complex handshapes especially the ones that involved a thumb control at this age.

Another week later (1;10,4), Juli was able to name the alphabetical letter "X" with the ASL handshape X.

In a new context, Juli recognized a close-up frame of the criss-crossed wood in the video and produced X.

However, the handshape X hadn't been incorporated into ASL words, such as "apple".

Toddler reading and fingerspelling letters

I first noticed that Juli (age 2;1,3) read four ASL signs from right to left in ASL Rose's book "HYES". She pointed to each of the four images from left to right and listened to my ASL utterance. She did the same every time like Japanese reading left to right.

Shortly then, Juli looked at the advertising card showing the brand name from my Acura dealer and uttered mother('s), yours. I decided to show her the brand name as shown on the card and what was shown on my car. I took Juli to my car with the advertising card. (see video at age 2;2)

To my surprise, not only Juli read the alphabetical letters from left to right (backward), but she also fingerspelled each of the alphabetical letters for the first time all by herself.

It was her first fingerspelled name, reading letter by letter herself. Reading from left to right was an interesting phenomenon.

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.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

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.