Srudent presentation by Shane Blau, LIN doctoral student “Student Accent and linguistic characteristics of Deaf bilingual signers: Building the foundation for infant language research”

GRP presentation by Shane Blau, LIN PhD Student

“Accent and linguistic characteristics of Deaf bilingual signers: Building the foundation for infant language research”

This study analyzes the language of Deaf bilingual signers (unimodal bilinguals) producing language in their L1 and L2 sign languages. The original motivation for this study was to develop stimulus materials for a study on infants, specifically to determine whether Deaf infants can distinguish different unknown sign languages. For the infant task, it was critical to identify whether the language produced by the adult signers was accented, but there is little consensus on what constitutes accent in sign languages. The presented research aims to take a first step towards identifying the characteristics of accented sign. This presentation will explain the foundational concepts for the infant research question, and then discuss findings from an in-depth analysis of the language produced by native-signing Deaf adults who are fluent in more than one sign language. The analysis includes what features contribute to the perception of accent, how strong of an accent each signer was perceived as having, the impact of different L1 languages, and the characteristics of transfer between the L1 and L2 production. Sign languages examined include Persian Sign Language, Swedish Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, American Sign Language and Langue des Signes Québécoise. Accent ratings vary significantly across individuals, but initial analysis shows that there was a significant difference in how Deaf and hearing participants rated the accent of the sign models. Overall, responses indicate that prosody and mouthing are the most significant factors in determining if a signer is accented. Based on these findings, the mouthing and prosodic features of each bilingual signer were examined for instances of transfer and non-native-like production. The presentation will give an overview of these findings, explore how these data can contribute to our knowledge about language discrimination in sign languages, and finally, tie the data back to the question of infant language development.

Shane Blau is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Linguistics. He is hearing from a hearing family, and learned ASL as a young adult. His involvement with the Deaf community began in 1995 when he went to Boston University and majored in Deaf Studies. Since then, he has worked in education with Deaf teenagers, attended the Interpreter Preparation Program at Ohlone College (Fremont, CA), worked as a certified interpreter for 10 years, received his MA in Linguistics from Gallaudet (2012), studied neurolinguistics at UC Davis and now has returned to Gallaudet to pursue his research interest in language acquisition under the guidance of Dr. Deborah Chen Pichler. His current research focuses on the effects of early language experience on linguistic development. Specifically, he is investigating formational and prosodic differences in sign languages and children’s ability to discriminate between different sign languages.

Friday, September 30, 11:00am – 11:50am

Location: SLCC 3233, our Open Area


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