Effect of Late Language Exposure on Sign Language Acquisition

Dilay Karadöller

Majority of studies aiming to understand language and cognition draw on data from children growing up with typical linguistic experience who are exposed to a language right after birth. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many deaf children. Most deaf children (90 %) are born to hearing parents and thus they lack immediate access to sign and spoken language even with hearing aids which may not provide enough access to the surrounding spoken language. These children (i.e., late signers) get their first exposure to a conventional language after entering a school for the deaf, at around 6 years of age or even later. By contrast, deaf children with deaf parents (i.e., native signers) are exposed to sign language from birth onwards by their caregivers.

In my work, I investigated such atypical cases of language acquisition which can shed light and give unique insights into the complex interplay between spatial language use and spatial memory accuracy in ways that may not be possible by studying typically developing children.

This project is supported by a Vici Grant (2015-2020) for the project "Giving cognition a hand: Linking spatial cognition to linguistic expression in native and late learners of sign language and bimodal bilinguals", awarded to Prof. Aslı Özyürek.