Finding Out: Developing Questions in BSL, Final Report to ESRC

JG Kyle, B Woll

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    In this project, we have investigated one aspect of this language development - questions. A sample of video recordings of Deaf children from Deaf homes was analysed for the development of questions in their discourse with adults. The results indicate that BSL questions do not seem to develop earlier than spoken English questions as was predicted and they do not follow the pattern of adult questions. There appears to be no interrogative function in early question interaction and questions are signalled more as turn-taking. The terminal hold of sign utterances is taken to be a question marker in both adult and child signing. An extension of this work with the same children several years later confirmed the presence of adult signed question forms but did not provide a simple model of their acquisition. This was seen even more strikingly in elicitation tasks with Deaf schoolchildren from hearing families. The conclusion which we can now make is that the syntactic and pragmatic aspects of question formation are treated differently in signed questions and that the pattern of acquisition is not as neatly laid out as had been anticipated. Facial expressions associated with questions are separate from the syntax of questions. It appears that it is not the use of a wh-feature which determines whether or not a given non-manual marker is used. What is crucial is the pragmatic condition of a question.
    Translated title of the contributionFinding Out: Developing Questions in BSL, Final Report to ESRC
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages44
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher: Bristol: Centre for Deaf Studies


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