Ongoing Sign Processing Facilitates Written Word Recognition in Deaf Native Signing Children

Posted on 2022-08-05 - 14:16

Signed and written languages are intimately related in proficient signing readers. Here, we tested whether deaf native signing beginning readers are able to make rapid use of ongoing sign language to facilitate recognition of written words. Deaf native signing children (mean 10 years, 7 months) received prime target pairs with sign word onsets as primes and written words as targets. In a control group of hearing children (matched in their reading abilities to the deaf children, mean 8 years, 8 months), spoken word onsets were instead used as primes. Targets (written German words) either were completions of the German signs or of the spoken word onsets. Task of the participants was to decide whether the target word was a possible German word. Sign onsets facilitated processing of written targets in deaf children similarly to spoken word onsets facilitating processing of written targets in hearing children. In both groups, priming elicited similar effects in the simultaneously recorded event related potentials (ERPs), starting as early as 200 ms after the onset of the written target. These results suggest that beginning readers can use ongoing lexical processing in their native language – be it signed or spoken – to facilitate written word recognition. We conclude that intimate interactions between sign and written language might in turn facilitate reading acquisition in deaf beginning readers.


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