Beppie van den Bogaerde

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Beppie van den Bogaerde

University of Amsterdam


Sign Language Acquisition research: not so easy…

Sign languages (SL) have been studied since the early 1960s, which makes this a relatively new field. For a long period the focus was on L1 acquisition of deaf children: The need for more information how best to offer language to a deaf child, be it spoken or signed, guided research (Newport and Meier 1986; van den Bogaerde 2000). At present, interest is emerging in SL acquisition as a second or foreign language (L2).  Both SL1 and SL2 acquisition research can lean on methodologies developed for spoken languages (see Baker, van den Bogaerde & Woll 2008), but some modality specific characteristics of signed languages demand different approaches (Orfanidou et al. 2015). I will provide a brief overview of what is known about SL1 and SL2 acquisition methodology, and discuss challenging issues like variety in signing, iconicity and use of space.


Baker, A., B. van den Bogaerde & B. Woll. 2005. Methods and procedures in sign language acquisition studies. Sign Language & Linguistics 8, 7-59.

Newport, E. & R. Meier. 1986. Acquisition of American Sign Language. In D. Slobin (ed.) The cross-linguistic study of language acquisition. Vol. I, pp. 881-938. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bogaerde, B. van den. 2000. Input and Interaction in Deaf Families. Dissertation University of Amsterdam.

Orfanidou, E., B. Woll & G. Morgan. 2015. Research Methods in Sign Language Studies: A Practical Guide. Chichester UK: John Wiley & Sons.

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