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Ling Fridays: Hou on Directional Verbs in home sign
December 2, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Giving puppies: Children’s development of directional verbs in making hands
Linguistics Fridays Colloquia talk
Lina Hou, University of California, Santa Barbara
(Email email@example.com for the link)
Existing research on child acquisition of sign languages, including emerging ones, tends to emphasize the role of input of a ‘critical mass of signers’ in educational institutions and language learning mechanisms, but less is known about the sociocultural processes of language learning especially in diverse language ecologies. I discuss the case study of one signing family who uses “making hands”, an emic term for the signing practices of deaf Chatino people and their families in the San Juan Quiahije municipality in Oaxaca, Mexico. The family in question consists of a first-generation deaf adult signer and two second-generation child signers, aged 4;0 (hearing) and 5;0 (deaf), and their usage of directional verbs for talking about events, making requests, and presenting or withholding gifts in culturally appropriate ways. Directional verbs are a common grammatical phenomenon of many sign languages in which some verbs such as ‘to give’ and ‘to take’ move in the direction of one or more of its arguments for indicating grammatical relations between agents and patients or themes. Ethnographic data reveals that the children’s acquisition of verbs is facilitated by directed input in form of directives from the adult, extensive peer play, visual access to signed adult conversations, and eventually, direct participation in signed conversations. This study offers insight about how the role of communicative practices in a local Mesoamerican ecology can shape a child’s acquisition of their family’s signing practices.