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Sign Language Acquisition

Children of deaf parents make great strides in their acquisition of a signed language during infancy and early childhood. These children, by the middle of their first year, begin to babble manually. The onset of manual babbling is soon followed by the children's production of their first recognizable signs; these gestures resemble signs in their formational structure. Around their first birthday, sign-learning children typically begin using signs referentially; that is, they use signs to name or label new instances of things. In the ensuing months, the children establish a core sign vocabulary and begin to combine signs. Whereas speech-learning children gradually acquire mastery of the vocal apparatus, young sign-learning children need to acquire control of their hands and arms to form sign utterances that will ...

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