Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Prosody, the “music” of language, is an important aspect of all natural languages, spoken and signed. We ask here whether prosody is also robust across learning conditions. If a child were not exposed to a conventional language and had to construct his own communication system, would that system contain prosodic structure? We address this question by observing a deaf child who received no sign language input and whose hearing loss prevented him from acquiring spoken language. Despite his lack of a conventional language model, this child developed his own gestural system. In this system, features known to mark phrase and utterance boundaries in established sign languages were used to consistently mark the ends of utterances, but not to mark phrase or utterance internal boundaries. A single child can thus develop the seeds of a prosodic system, but full elaboration may require more time, more users, or even more generations to blossom.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): communication; gesture; homesign; intonational phrase; prosody; sign language
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