Brown Bag by graduate students on depiction and language fluency in ASL 4/24, 12-1 @SLCC Open Space, Ling Dept

Please join us for our next Brown Bag presentation. Sadi Dudley, Megan Kish, and Derek Vore will be sharing some of their initial findings from the work they have been doing with Dr. Thumann on depiction and language fluency in ASL. The talk will be held in the open area in the linguistics department on April 24th.

topic: Coding Depiction Instances across American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) Assessment Levels
presenters: Research Assistants of Dr. Thumann: Sadi Dudley, Megan Kish, and Derek Vore
when: Friday, April 24, 12 to 1 pm
where: SLCC 3rd floor open area in linguistics department

The presenters of this Brown Bag session worked as research assistants for a pilot study at Gallaudet University, Examining the Use of Depiction across ASLPI Assessment Levels (M. Thumann). This study sought to analyze depiction usage by signers of varying language fluency in order to identify patterns and differences and provide detailed information about depiction usage. Depiction is a term used “…to describe either (a) any act in which one or a set of concepts are made manifest in the discourse setting, or (b) the product of this act” (Dudis, 2011: 4). Using depiction, signers provide a partial demonstration of the event being described (Liddell, 2003). This study follows Dudis (2007, 2011) where depiction is identified as occurring when signers utilize their articulators, their body, and the signing space around them to represent an entity, event, or abstract concept. Elements of depiction may include the signer’s body, facial expressions, articulators, and the signing space around the signer, and indicators of depiction included changes in head position, facial expression, eye gaze and body position (Thumann 2010).


The research team analyzed language samples from individuals assessed at each level of proficiency on the ASLPI. Using ELAN to compare depiction usage between signers, the research team sought to identify patterns and gain insight into the type and occurrence of depiction usage at various levels of fluency from low proficiency to high proficiency. Using ELAN, a professional transcription tool, the research group analyzed each language sample in order to identify instances of depiction and depiction types, creating time-aligned annotations for each instance (based on Dudis’ Depiction Identification Flowchart version 4.9.2). Coders also noted the indicators of each instance of depiction including changes in facial expression, the direction of eye gaze, the direction of the tilt of the head, and changes in the position of the body (Thumann, 2010).

The aim of this research was to determine how depiction usage compares among signers of different ASLPI levels in order to gain a better understanding of types of depiction evidenced and to identify problem areas related to depiction usage of less skilled signers. This study involved identifying the number of instances of depiction and the number of types of depiction in each sample, a comparison of the number of instances of each type of depiction (within the same proficiency level), and a comparison of the number of instances of each type of depiction (between proficiency levels). This study also involved providing descriptions of differences in types of depiction, evidence of depiction (i.e. differences in the indicators of depiction such as eye gaze, head position, facial expressions, body position), and patterns in the production of depiction by signers of each level of proficiency (i.e. descriptions of variation in handshapes, use of space, etc.). Proficient language users are able to show details and make information visible thereby aiding addressees in constructing conceptualizations for understanding. In this session, the presenters share strategies used in identifying and coding instances of depiction by signers assessed at various proficiency levels on the ASLPI.

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