This project investigates the development of bimodal bilingualism by studying sign language and spoken language in young deaf children with a cochlear implant (CI) and young hearing children in deaf families (codas). Most research conducted with deaf children with CIs has focused on their development of spoken language, whether they are in oral-only or total communication programs. However, none has examined the development of sign language and spoken language as two systems of a child bilingual, comparing them with the natural bilingual situation of codas. This study also breaks new ground by comparing the development of bimodal bilingualism in two language pairs: English and American Sign Language (ASL), and Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and Brazilian Sign Language (LSB). By including two pairs in the study the research aims for a greater degree of generalizability and a better understanding of the effects of particular languages on the process of development. The research uses both longitudinal spontaneous production data and experimental tasks with children between the ages of 1 year, 6 months and 7 years to address the following three major questions: Question 1: How does early exposure to Sign Language and spoken language affect development in each modality in signing deaf children with a CI? Question 2: Is the language development of bimodal bilinguals with fully accessible input constrained in ways similar to that of unimodal bilinguals? Question 3: To what extent does the linguistic development of deaf children with CIs who receive early bimodal input resemble that of hearing bimodal bilinguals (codas)?

Public Health Relevance

This project asks whether deaf children who have a cochlear implant can become bilingual in both spoken language and sign language in the same way that hearing children can become bilingual in speech and sign if their families use both languages. It is crucial for parents and educators to know about the ways in which this kind of bilingual situation can progress so that they can make informed choices.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
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University of Connecticut
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Hall, Matthew L; Eigsti, Inge-Marie; Bortfeld, Heather et al. (2018) Executive Function in Deaf Children: Auditory Access and Language Access. J Speech Lang Hear Res 61:1970-1988
Hall, Matthew L; Eigsti, Inge-Marie; Bortfeld, Heather et al. (2017) Auditory Deprivation Does Not Impair Executive Function, But Language Deprivation Might: Evidence From a Parent-Report Measure in Deaf Native Signing Children. J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ 22:9-21
Lillo-Martin, Diane; de Quadros, Ronice Müller; Pichler, Deborah Chen (2016) The Development of Bimodal Bilingualism: Implications for Linguistic Theory. Linguist Approaches Biling 6:719-755
Pichler, Deborah Chen; Hochgesang, Julie A; Lillo-Martin, Diane et al. (2016) Best Practices for Building a Bimodal/Bilingual Child Language Corpus. Sign Lang Stud 16:361-388
Davidson, Kathryn; Lillo-Martin, Diane; Chen Pichler, Deborah (2014) Spoken english language development among native signing children with cochlear implants. J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ 19:238-50
Lillo-Martin, Diane; de Quadros, Ronice M; Chen Pichler, Deborah et al. (2014) Language choice in bimodal bilingual development. Front Psychol 5:1163
Lillo-Martin, Diane C; Gajewski, Jon (2014) ONE GRAMMAR OR TWO? Sign Languages and the Nature of Human Language. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci 5:387-401
Cruz, Carina Rebello; Finger, Ingrid (2013) Let Hoje 48:389-398
de Quadros, Ronice Müller; Lillo-Martin, Diane; Pichler, Deborah Chen (2013) [What bimodal bilingual have to say about bilingual developing?] Let Hoje 48:380-388
de Sousa, Aline Nunes; de Quadros, Ronice Müller (2012) [An analysis of code-switching phenomenon in bimodal bilinguals (Libras and Portuguese).] Rev Virtual Estud Ling 10:329-346

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