Sign Language and Bilingualism


Children who are born to parents with normal hearing are most likely exposed to a spoken language, whereas children born to deaf parents are usually exposed to sign language. What if a hearing child is born to two deaf parents? In this project, we attempted to gain a better understanding of what processes go on in the brain of a child who is learning a signed language and a spoken language at the same time.

Research has shown that approximately 90% of children born to deaf parents are hearing. Born into an environment in which they are simultaneously exposed to two modalities of language (sign and spoken), these individuals grow up simultaneously acquiring both languages. This form of bilingualism, known as bimodal bilingualism, presents a unique challenge for these language learners, as they must interpret and understand language both audibly and visually. We also question the pros and cons of being a bilingual signer and an English speaker. By comparing the developmental milestones in sign language acquisition and spoken language acquisition, we can see how the two processes differ and by doing so, gain a more in depth understanding of how the langauge acquisition process can be generalized and work in all human beings.

Project Outline

Research Questions

  1. What are the developmental differences between monolingual English-speaking children versus bilingual ASL and English-speaking children?
  2. What cognitive processes (audio, visual, motor, language domains) are utilized in learning language within these two groups?
  3. Does learning sign language hinder or help the process of learning spoken langauge?

Topics of Interest


Meet the Authors of this Wiki


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