Imitation, Sign Language Skill and the Developmental Ease of Language Understanding (D-ELU) Model
2016 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 7, no 107Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Imitation and language processing are closely connected. According to the Ease of Language Understanding (ELU) model (Ronnberg et al., 2013) pre-existing mental representation of lexical items facilitates language understanding. Thus, imitation of manual gestures is likely to be enhanced by experience of sign language. We tested this by eliciting imitation of manual gestures from deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) signing and hearing non-signing children at a similar level of language and cognitive development. We predicted that the DHH signing children would be better at imitating gestures lexicalized in their own sign language (Swedish Sign Language, SSL) than unfamiliar British Sign Language (BSL) signs, and that both groups would be better at imitating lexical signs (SSL and BSL) than non-signs. We also predicted that the hearing non-signing children would perform worse than DHH signing children with all types of gestures the first time (T1) we elicited imitation, but that the performance gap between groups would be reduced when imitation was elicited a second time (T2). Finally, we predicted that imitation performance on both occasions would be associated with linguistic skills, especially in the manual modality. A split-plot repeated measures ANOVA demonstrated that DHH signers imitated manual gestures with greater precision than non-signing children when imitation was elicited the second but not the first time. Manual gestures were easier to imitate for both groups when they were lexicalized than when they were not; but there was no difference in performance between familiar and unfamiliar gestures. For both groups, language skills at T1 predicted imitation at T2. Specifically, for DHH children, word reading skills, comprehension and phonological awareness of sign language predicted imitation at T2. For the hearing participants, language comprehension predicted imitation at T2, even after the effects of working memory capacity and motor skills were taken into account. These results demonstrate that experience of sign language enhances the ability to imitate manual gestures once representations have been established, and suggest that the inherent motor patterns of lexical manual gestures are better suited for representation than those of non-signs. This set of findings prompts a developmental version of the ELU model, D-ELU.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
FRONTIERS MEDIA SA , 2016. Vol. 7, no 107
imitation; sign language; manual gesture; representation; development
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-125800DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00107ISI: 000370127400001PubMedID: 26909050OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-125800DiVA: diva2:910335
Funding Agencies|Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare [2008-0846]2016-03-082016-03-042016-05-23