Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Little is known about when and how children acquire plurality for directional verbs in ASL and other signed languages. This paper reports on an experimental study of 11 deaf native-signing children’s acquisition of ‘plural verb agreement’ or plural forms of directional verbs in American Sign Language. Eleven native-signing deaf adults were also tested. An elicitation task explored how children (aged 3;4 to 5;11) and adults marked directional verbs for plurality. The children also participated in an imitation task. Adults marked directional verbs for plurality significantly more often than children. However, adults also omitted plurality from directional verbs, utilizing alternative strategies to mark plural referents significantly more often than did children. Children across all ages omitted plurality, suggesting that the omission is attributable to both the conceptual complexity of plural markers and the optionality of number-marking. Directionality may not be best analyzed as a morphosyntactic phenomenon analogous to verb agreement morphology in spoken languages.


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