Language Development from age 2.5 to 3 in sign language (DRAFT)

The blooming stage of multi-utterances in ASL.

2;6,3: The toddler Juli's language grew somehow rapidly that she used more complex words and sentences than ever before. Conversations became more natural and a little advanced than before. She was able to express more, anything in her world beyond needs and wants.

Juli's language bloom became noticeable lately that changed my camera-recording routines and strategies. Capturing phenomenal moments become difficult and more unsuccessful, because many sentences are spontaneous that cannot be repeated. I found myself to keep a notepad nearby to keep records of Juli's sentences before my memories quickly slipped off.

Developing her own sense of humor also occurs at this stage. Whatever Juli did something funny intentionally, she uttered funny. She joked a lot.

Juli still pretended sometimes to be some animal, such as a monkey, a dog, etc. She also asked me to pretend to be a crying lion begging to get out of the safety gate. At one time, she held a building block and uttered ix-me want ix-you cry for the block.

2;6,3: Juli articulated many things spontaneously every day that I didn't record mostly. Here are some utterances that I noted.

where pump?, where christmas ball, ask-you mother ice-cream, ix-me good girl -- ice-cream!, ix-me ready sleep, ix-me good, milk

bring ipad over-there bed, fine, ice-cream, fine[nod] (trying to convince me that it's okay to have some ice-cream), cl-drop(water) (using a classifier handshape for water dropping from the faucet), want see, want chase (she took my cellphone and wanted me to chase her around), where cherries? ix-ref hide

Juli peered through a fence gap where two little girls swinged in the backyard. She really wanted to join and play with them. A man of that neighbor quickly came over to check his RV and briefly noticed us. Juli signed hello? hello! ask man.. want ask.

ix-ref native-american bird egg (she commented about a Native American who wore feathers and looked like a bird at a pow-pow festival).

The image on the mini iPad shows a long spine. I signed bone in my response. Juli replied, giraffe. I corrected, but she insisted it's a giraffe. It was not the first time. Whatever I provided correct information, she would insist that she was right otherwise. I signed, "Sure, it's your opinion."

Interjections and prepositions also emerged more, such as hmm and with. For example, want with ix necklace.

The signed word also or same-as also had become more common. It had been used somehow longer than I could recognize, because the production was hard to identify until now. lick like dog. ix-me dog.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: same-as monkey, ix-me monkey, ix-me bird, Disney mouse, first-nations, train go where?, #dooora gift-me, (asking for some item to gift her at a store), want cow milk, want see, (becoming more common), signing sentence (imitating me), who? (imitating), how many? (imitating), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;7,0: In the previous week, I mentioned that I noticed an emerging milestone of "language boom". Sure enough, this week it became more apparent. The toddler Juli continued to converse about anything in her world.

One early morning, I asked Juli what she wanted for breakfast. Juli thought for a moment, knowing the impossible, chocolate!. I shook my head.

She tried this way ix-me want chocolate -- a sentence that she might think it would impress me. It didn't work. I clearly told her #no-no, not this morning.

She tried another technique or strategy, ask-you mother.. ask-you mother. She had been using this a lot when she wanted this or that thing (e.g. toy) at the park and I told her to ask that person for permission. Usually, another parent nodded, giving permission. It didn't work with me.

However, I offered her want grapes? and she nodded, sure!

Some other phrases that Juli has expressed are: ix-me monkey, game fists ix-hand(left) ix-hand(right) (an invention of her own expression for playing a game), ix-me want candy one.. ten.. four (she tried different number as I shook my head "no", whoa, not ten!), and.. and father, with father, funny dog sunglasses (she amused herself by imagining sunglasses on a guide dog statue in a grocery store), helicopter fall-down! (a helicopter toy with control) and more.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: silly, promise, and some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;7,1: Juli pretended to be one of many animals and imitated from screen shows. Her language continued to grow and could express about anything she wanted to share. The lens into her mind began to enlarge more that we could peer into her world of thoughts.

For example, Juli told me the dardnest thing, ix-breast same-as mouse (Translation: "Your breast looks like a mouse."). I thought for a moment and laughed. Wow, I never thought of it but now I could see that. How a child perceived something of a worldview was amazing.

Another thing was that Juli prepared a new bed space on the floor in my bedroom about an hour before her actual bed time. She asked for a book. She took one and read it on her own. Then she slipped under the sheet and "slept", everything on her own. I did absolutely nothing. She impressed me so much and I wondered what was going on. She was still, unmoved, for more than few minutes. No way, I thought she was sleeping? Impossible. I tapped on her and she looked at me with a smile. I asked in ASL, "Are you sleeping?" She replied in ASL (shaking head) same-as penguin. Ah, Pingu's influence on her. Imitation.

From time to time, Juli would dip her hand into a cup of juice or any drink. She gave me more trouble to clean up. Now she was able to tell me why: same-as cat. Ah, for the first time, I understood why she had been doing it sometimes.

Others here and there: ix-me sit-down same-as pig ("I'm sitting here like a pig." Probably her reference to some scene on a kid show).

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: sushi, two, ten, ix woman and man sit-on(?) cat (she probably talked about the neighbors or others as we looked out the window), ask(infl) woman/man/girl/etc (her common phrase to ask for permission at the park), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;7,2: Juli watched some Dora and Curious Monkey videos. She pretended to be Curious Monkey sometimes. She told me ix name fs-dora.. with monkey walk.

Juli knew a rule that she couldn't watch videos at bedtime. She asked for ipad, assuring me only game. It was referred to reading e-books, playing puzzles, etc. on apps. No videos.

On the other hand, whenever she wanted videos (Curious Monkey), she requested, ix-you try internet monkey. There were many times that she uttered ix-you try ix-this.

Her concept of the Internet might be not the same we adults knew. She understood the conceptual relationship between local apps and a gateway to something -- connection to vs disconnection from videos regardless of the apps being open and a gateway locked or unlocked (a password required).

Some more other things she signed: father out drive, bye-bye. where banana hide? (perfect production).

Sitting in the small pool, Juli asked me to get in the pool with her. But, I told her that I couldn't because of the clothes. She suggested ix-you ix-here stand with me. She wanted me get in the pool, standing (barefoot). A while later, she said in ASL, ix-me same-as monkey bath.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: ix-me ready sleep (telling me that she's serious about going to sleep, not playing around), toilet, water fast (faster running water out of the hose), and some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;7,2: Juli and I understood each other with her one-word utterances too well. But, I encouraged her to develop and use her ASL sentences.

When I first introduced sentence weeks ago, I would ask her, "Please copy me in a sentence" along with an example of sentence. She'd copy a sentence including the ASL word "sentence". But now, I just simply uttered "sentence please" and she replied with a sentence. She understood the concept of sentence.

One day Juli asked ix-loc #TV. I replied, "sentence please." She rephrased, ix-me want watch #TV.

Another time, she wanted to get in my driver seat, ix-loc sit. I asked for a sentence. She replied, ix-me want sit in-there cl-steering (Translated as "I want to sit in there and steer").

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: ipad only game (Juli knew that she couldn't have vidoes at bedtime so she asked for ipad without videos), ix-me go-to father ix-there (Juli already made a plan in mind to visit her father after preschool), cherrios ("6" handshape), and some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;8,1: One day I picked Juli up from preschool. As she sat in her car seat, she asked, rabbit store. I said #ok.

As I just got into my driver seat, I noticed Juli signing through the rearview and I grabbed the video camera. Juli signed train rabbit store which, hmm, rabbit[nodding]. The pet store and the toy store are right next to each other that we always went there both. Juli seemed to make a plan which one to go to first.

One morning, as I parked my car on the lot for Juli's second day of bilingual ASL-English preschool, Juli saw a yellow school bus in the distance. The bus passed by and disappeared behind huge trees. Juli commented Oh! bus drive cl-pass-by.. where go bus cl-pathline? .. uh-well. Well, where go bus this-way? School bus this-way++. (video)

One day Juli shouted so loudly and sharply in a pet store. I sat down and warned Juli in ASL (translated as), "Shh. Don't yell so loudly. People are looking at you." Two women in 40s or 50s looked at us with a smile. Juli noticed them and felt embarrased.

A few minutes later, Juli shrieked again in front of a poor $1,699 talking parrot. I warned her, "Shh! If you do it one more again, I will take you home so fast. Understand?" Juli nodded and walked away, Understood!. Hope the talking parrot didn't learn from Juli.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: ix-me ready sleep, ix-you try ix(ipad) (asking me to try to turn on Internet), fast water (to ask for faster running water coming out of the hose), fast! (faster swinging), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;8,2: The toddler Juli would produce one or two ASL words and sometimes would produce ASL sentences. She and I knew each other too much that I could understand her one- or two-word requests.

To avoid this bad habit, I wanted to encourage her to develop her sentences. When she produced one or two-word request, I'd ask her, "Sentence please." It sometimes surprised me how much she knew how to produce sentences or what ideas were in her mind.

I began this practice at the beginning of this month. Initially, she would imitate "sentence please." Eventually, in no time, she understood what it meant. She responded in ASL sentences without repeating "sentence please."

One day Juli asked for cereal with one word. I asked, sentence please. Juli responded, ix-me want cereal. Give-me Juli.

ix(filter) water fine, translated as "It's okay to play with this water one." She was trying to convince me.

Juli's appetite was inspired by the image of strawberries in a book. She asked for some strawberries to eat. I told her that we didn't have any. She asked apple cake. I responded in ASL, translated as "Sorry, it was all gone. But, we still have some apple pancakes." She told me, ix apple pancake fine++.

Juli and I were sitting on the city train facing the others. As the train stopped at a station, Juli pointed at the store front outside. She was asking if we should get off now. The train started rolling on again. Juli signed, funny, train cl-get-off. She thought she was funny because she thought we should get off. Her mistake, she thought. The onlookers smiled. I had no doubt that it was the first time they had ever seen a toddler making conversations in ASL.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: father love me (when I told her that everyone in my family loves her), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

Nightly at bedtime Juli and I played a little good-night game. As Juli tucked under the blanket, I would always sign "good night". Juli replied good+night. Then I signed, "I love you." She imitated, "I love me." She did at around 18 months or so.

Evolving from this stage of the classical pronoun reversal error, Juli continued doing it to play a game every night even though she understood pronouns and their role shifting since age 2.

Each time she signed, "I love me", I'd wait for her to correct. She pointed to me, "you". I hugged her. One night, when she pointed to herself while I pointed to her, I made a fake sadness. Then she suddenly pointed to me with a laugh.

From there on, nightly she would point to herself, waiting for me to turn sad before she pointed to me. Then I'd burst into delight and hugged her.

For the past weeks, she would point to herself and prepared me ix-you sad. Okay, I looked sad before she uttered "you". Same routine nightly. Then we'd wave ILY and kissed each other with our ILY hands.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: blue bus (city bus), uh-oh, where bus go? (blue city bus going in another direction), ix-loc panda mother (a large billboard of the panda and her baby panda near preschool), try turn-on water (hose), train ready to-fall cl-hit (storytelling about the Thomas train in a toy store), hmm.. ah! Yogurt (when asking her what she wanted to eat one early morning), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

Instead of giving her one big piece of organic chocolate, I usually give her eight cut pieces (two at a time four times) and she always was happy. It was like she got so many -- without giving her too much. But, now she was aware of the size and made a comment, so-tiny, oh! want big, want big.

2:9,0: Juli had an eye infection and was treated with medicine. Next morning, as she got up on the bed, she chuckled with funny squinted eyes. She looked so cute the moment she woke up. She commented eyes finished. She knew her eyes were healed.

Juli had been playing ghost with a cloth lately. One bedtime, she brought me a black silk-like square cloth to play a ghost. I had been always a friendly ghost. She asked, want you scare me. I wasn't willing to. She insisted, scare me.. i want you scare me.

One day Grandpa K picked Juli up and brought her home. That time he and Grandma Z were cat-sitting my brother's cat "Elliot". After my work, Grandpa K dropped Juli off at my home. I asked Juli in ASL, translated as, "Did you have fun with the cat?" Juli reported cat scratch-me.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: ix-juice better (a choice of the other juice), poop pah! (finally..), some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.

2;9,1: Juli helped herself bringing the chair to the countertop and got up. She opened the cabinet and helped herself with some honey. She had more than enough. I told her, "Enough now" in ASL.

Juli knew there was another honey in another cabinet. She replied, another honey fine and pointed to the other cabinet. Tricky strategy.

Another time, Juli came to me with a strategy and preparation. She carefully approached with specific tone, candy gift-me, yah!. I shook head, not yet.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: airplane! ix loud (Airplane! It's loud!), eyedropper (asking for one), light (with the handshape error "6" or "W"), see moon, and some more shown in the video above.

2;9,2: One bedtime, Juli watched a DVD on ASL Mother Goose. It was a documentary about a program in another province faraway. Juli watched and recognized familiar environments (e.g. parents and their babies/toddlers). Juli asked twice, where juli, huh?, expecting to find herself in that video, not aware that there were programs all over North America.

One morning, as I drove Juli to preschool, she and I had conversations like those other mornings and days. She was sitting in the backseat and I was driving and listening to her through the rearview mirror.

Juli kicked against the back of my carseat to get my attention. I looked at her in the rearview mirror. She asked father?. I realized that lately these mornings Juli wanted to know who would pick her up at the end of the preschool day.

I told her that her father worked. She asked grandparent? and I told her that I was going to pick her up. She signed you mother. I nodded, right.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: tea (playing tea party with me), next (screen show), cl1-person, and some more shown in the video above.

2;9,3: One day, Juli got her pants wet. She helped herself change the pants on her own without me knowing. Then, I found wet pants. Juli quickly explained ix wet. want dry. She pointed to her dry pants she was wearing, ix fine++ as if she was assuring me that everything was good.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: airplane! ix loud (Airplane! It's loud!), ix(cider) for bug (apple cider vinegar to catch fruitflies), ix(1) ix(2) which (deciding between two music discs to pick for music in the car), and some more shown in the video above.

The other day, Juli painted her lips with watercolor. I quickly stopped her and told her that it wasn't safe to eat it.

Juli replied food only. I agreed, "yes, food is for eating only." Then, Juli added ix(watercolor) painting only.

One day, as I passed by Juli and noticed a scene of the Caillou show on Netflix. I quickly noted, ix-he visit grandfather. Juli corrected me ix uncle. Oh.

2:10,0: Juli explained man come-here drive-infl home where the verb drive was inflected (two "S" handshapes moving along horizontally).

ASL literacy development

Juli also sometimes counted things. She noticed two identical plates and uttered two. Also, two dog. She asked for two candies, sometimes five. She asked for big juice, etc.

One day A friend parked his truck in front of the school one morning for my workshop. Juli's preschool was around the building on other side. Juli uttered ix school your. ix-over mine.

There were no footprints in the fresh snow so we waited inside the truck as a security person hadn't arrived yet. Juli told me ix(door) open. I explained that the door was closed. As she probably didn't want to wait, she insisted again and again ix(door) open.

After the workshop, I got in the truck. Juli signed ix closed. I nodded in agreement. She added ix school yours. ix-over school mine.

A few days later, Juli stood next to me and observed as I was paying for a service at the car shop. Juli commented done, ix-loc car yours. I agreed it was done but I corrected that the black car wasn't mine, ix woman will bring-here my car ("The woman will bring my car here"). Juli nodded.

Another day, when Juli pointed at a picture of the raisins on the box and pointed to the raisins inside the box, she uttered ix, ix same-as (double-handed "1" handshapes).

Juli signed ix-me grow (one-handed bent "B" handshape moving upward for "grow").

2;10,2: Juli slided the glass door closed as I approached her at preschool. She giggled looking at me through the glass door. I asked in ASL (translated as), "Do you want to go home or stay in class longer?" She replied class.

In the carseat, I asked her whether she wanted to go home or to go to the toy store. She replied, Hmm, train store! She and I had been using the "train" in reference to the Scholar's Choice store where it had a train set to play with.

After that store, Juli wanted to go to another store SOSOSO or S6S6S6 (or SWSWSW). She was upset because I couldn't figure out what she wanted. It was new that she used. I asked for a sentence to help me with the context. Finally, I realized she meant "SF" for Safeway and she remembered the sign.

2;10,3: Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: signing, , recognizing the upper and lower cases of letters as the same, cl-plane-circling, girl look-out ooh!, safe ix-here, shake-head ix-there (this sofa is safer but this floor isn't), me turn (my turn), watch-me (inflected directional verb), and some more shown in the video above.

2;11,0: One night the toddler Juli turned off light at her bedtime. I turned on the light, (translated as) "Wait, you forgot something."

She signed good-night and kissed me. She added, good-night, i-love you a-lot. Aww! She signed the "a lot" part of her choice herself. This was the moment!

Next night or so, Juli herself signed, "I love you always." She used the ASL word "always"! Again this time she was not duplicating me, aww!

Next night, I put her in bed and anticipated her to utter the routine in ASL. She signed ix-me love you a-lot always translated as "I love you a lot (and) always." Double "a lot" and "always"! Another surprise! Quite a Christmas gift.

At age two, Juli could only express the "ILY" with the handshape "W" (handshape error in replacement for a more difficult handshape ILY). About three months ago, she finally formed the correct ILY handshape.

At age two, Juli understood the concept of role-shifting pronouns and possessives that she used them correctly. But, she could always tease me nightly by uttering "I Love me" and waited for me to playfully look sad. Then she would turn to "you" and I turned happy. It had been going on for months.

Now, she no longer teased me but uttered a complete sentence with the correct pronouns plus the bonuses "a lot" and "always".

Not only Juli's language development in ASL was more noticeably exploding that week, but also she talked like a bit grown-up -- more interactive and suggestive. Many things she articulated were a bit more complex than before, such as the ASL words guess, now, etc.

Even she used a few signed words she brought from her bilingual preschool that I barely, if not never, used with her at home, such as: monster and my turn (I knew this one that she learned from her schoolmate "Sz". Very unlikely on my word list. Likely from her peer.

One day, there was a sudden loud sound somewhere that Juli was worried, loud. She pointed upstairs. We went upstairs to check. She said, #no now (none now).

Juli is such a lovely little darling that she sometimes helped herself taking something for herself but also took an extra for me (e.g. two oranges, etc). She helped herself with a muffin and took the other one for me. As she handed me the muffin, she signed, eat-it, (shake-head) put-it-back-there (Eat it. Don't put it back there.) It amused me.

Granfather K waved bye-bye to Juli and left our house. Before he drove off, he helped out shoveling the snow at my place. Juli informed me, grandfather ix-there shovel snow.

Juli wanted us to jump four steps down the short stairs together. She kept insisting and I kept declining, for I was afraid of jumping over the four-step stairs. Juli explained, ix-me scared. ix-you scared. same-as-you-me (repeated phrases). I explained to her possible consequences. She thought for a moment.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: get-up now, ix-me guess-it, oops! (not sure what she talked about or referred to), drive-forward far, ix-me look-for mouse (I'm looking for a mouse.), and some more shown in the video above.

2;11,1: One bedtime Juli got in bed but realized something. She told me ix-me forget to-toothbrush. Hmm, isn't that "forget" (a negative word) concurrent with the negation phase?

Juli used stay several times and they all were locative or location-specific. E.g. She wanted her shirt to stay on. She signed stay toward her torso. Another time, tell me to stay there. Stay here. And so on.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: ix-me working (using my little desk), leave-it-there (telling me to leave the pizza piece there on the table), and some more shown in the video above.

The concept of "same" and "also"

Juli uttered, ix-you play, ix-me play, too. She wanted us to play together. Another time, she signed you scared, ix-me scared, too. ix-me scared jump[loc+inflected]. She wanted me to jump all down the stairs but I was afraid. She insisted to dare me.

The ASL sign too is the same as also or same-as. But, there are two different signs for same. The one is the handshape Y back and forth for "also, "too", and "same as". The other one is the two-handed "1" handshapes repeated together for "the same as that", but it doesn't fit with the meaning for "too" or "also". Juli knew these two different signs for different meanings/contexts.

Juli used the "Y" one for these contexts correctly. I rarely used that double-handed "1" sign, but I suspected she learned from Grandma Z and others. However, Juli used both of these ASL signs reguarly and appeared to be sensitive to these gradient meanings (semantics).

Another, Juli moved a iron-structured chair across the wood floor. I stopped it and explained about the potential scratches on the wood floor. I showed the soft pads on the bottom of the wood chairs' legs that wouldn't scratch. Juli took the wood chair instead and signed, ix better ("It's better").

It's another gradient meaning of "better" (an abstract concept) unlike "more" (a concrete concept of having something more).

2;11,2: Large beautiful icicles hanged in front of the kitchen window. I called Juli to take a look. As I was signing beautiful, big, Juli didn't look at time. Instead, she was looking out the window and imitated me, beautiful, big.

It didn't surprise me as I knew she has been using her developed peripheral vision skill since she was under age one. I have been signing to her regardless of whether she was gazing at me or not.

Sometimes I told Juli, I told #no. She learned this phrase that she used it sometimes when I told her no.

For example, one day Juli asked for chocolate with a smirk. I told her #no. Juli shot ix-me tell no!

A bowl of yogurt fell on the floor. I asked Juli why did she throw it. Juli admitted ix-me throw. I asked throw or happen?. Juli replied it-happened.

Some of the following random words and phrases that Juli used this week: you draw-here line (asking me to draw a line on the whiteboard), battery cl-dead (the battery for a device was dead), uncle have cat; uncle have bird/duck, (not sure where she talked about the bird/duck part), ix-me want-to go swimming (), horse sleep over-there.. yep (Juli rode on a horse a little while ago.), and some more shown in the video above.

2;11,3: Juli continued to articulate ASL phrases and words that showed more abstract concepts, such as have, some concepts of time, promise, and such.

For example, I don't recall using the ASL sign ribbon for a very long time, though infrequently. Juli pointed to the image of a cat with the ribbon on her dress and told me in ASL, ix-me want ix-me have ribbon.

One bedtime, I put Juli on the bed and we exchanged our usual ILY routine. As I turned around for the light to turn off, Juli quickly signed, you good girl.

One late morning, Juli had been dawdling around. Finally, it was time to go and I had an idea. I explained to Juli in ASL, translated as, "Okay, I will text Grandma Z to come here and watch you while I'm going to the store." I knew and anticipated very much that she would want to come and would comply. Sure enough, Juli had a wait-a-minute look, Umm, ix-me go store same-you.

One day, Juli saw me making a drizzle cake. She signed ix-you make drizzle+cake.

The other day, in front of the mega legos, Juli expressed, ix-me want make house.. father house.

Related posts

A case study of the toddler's language development in sign language from age 2.5 to 3.

Enter a keyword in the field box below to search or filter the new topic list and click on the link.

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.