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A note on phonological acquisition of novice/L2 signers through a sign repetition task
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Sign Language.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8762-7118
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Sign Language.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Swedish as a Second Language for the Deaf.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8579-0771
2019 (English)Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper has two aims. First, it presents the development of a sign repetition test for novice/L2 signers. The test was originally developed and used within the project Teaching Swedish Sign Language (SSL) as a second language to interpreter students (UTL2) at Stockholm University, Sweden (Holmström 2018). Second, it provides a description of the signers’ phonological acquisition from a longitudinal perspective through a qualitative examination of the test outcomes.

Studies on phonological acquisition of L2 signers confirm that phonology is a challenge to acquire among L2 signers (Bochner et al. 2011; Rosen 2004;). With this as a point of departure, in the project UTL2 we developed a sign repetition test, SignRepL2, targeted at L2 signers, with a focus on sign structure, i.e., phonological features of signs. Several recent studies have shown that repetition tests are an efficient and reliable tool for measuring language proficiency for both L1 users and L2 learners (Gaillard & Tremblay 2016; Klem et al. 2015). And sign languages seem to provide no exception, as in recent years there has been a growing number of sign language repetition tests, e.g. American Sign Language, ASL-SRT (Hauser et al. 2008), and Swedish Sign Language, SSL-SRT (Schönström 2014).

The procedure in the SignRepL2 test is that the test-taker is instructed to repeat the sign or the short sentences provided in the stimuli as exactly as possible during video recording. In version one, 50 test items were used: 30 single-sign sentences, 10 two-sign sentences and 10 three-sign sentences. However, while the test worked well for the novice signers, a ceiling effect could be observed after one semester. As a consequence, version two of the SignRepL2 was developed by reducing the single-sign sentences from 30 to 10 and by adding 10 new four-sign sentences, now totaling 40 test items.

The scoring of results follows a five-point rating scale as inspired by Ortega (Ortega cited in Gaillard & Trembly 2016). Here, scores from 0 to 4 are used, depending on the degree of correctness of the test responses. If the whole sign or sentence is correctly produced, 4 points are given. If the manual signing is correct but with missing or wrong mouth action, 3 points are given. If at least half of the sign or sentence is correct, 2 points are given, and a correct rate less than half results in 1 point. If the whole sentence is missing or totally wrong, 0 points are given.

To date, the SignRepL2 has been tested on 37 SSL L2 students using a longitudinal approach. The students are tested five times under a period of two years during their SSL interpreting education. The first time was before their first ever SSL instruction, the second session took place after approximately 100 hours of instruction, the third after 200 hours, the fourth after 400 hours, and the fifth after 600 hours. The first three times, the primary version of SignRepL2 was used, and in the last two instances, the second version was used. The whole test procedure takes 10-12 minutes to administer and 30 minutes to score.

In this paper, we will present the test development including the item selection process, scoring and the test results, as well as provide a qualitative examination of the phonological features. In the first test session, it appears that the students primarily try to imitate the actor’s manual signs without understanding the meaning of them, and thereby also exclude the mouth movements. In the later test sessions, there is a gradual change from solely an imitation of form to an imitation of the signs connected to their meaning, revealed, e.g., through the increased use of mouth movements and through the errors made when they replace signs that the actor uses with synonyms that they themselves have mastered. The tests also provide opportunities for a deep analysis of phonological features in the students’ imitation of the signs, and different phonological errors can be revealed at the group level. For example, the primary results indicate that it is the type of movement that the students most often fail to produce correctly. The results from the five test sessions will be compared to each other and detected differences between them will be discussed.

References

Bochner, J. H., Christie, K., Hauser, P. C., & Searls, J. M. (2011). When is a difference really different? Learners’ discrimination of linguistic contrasts in American Sign Language. Language Learning, 61(4), 1302–1327. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2011.00671.x

Gaillard, S., & Tremblay, A. (2016). Linguistic Proficiency Assessment in Second Language Acquisition Research: The Elicited Imitation Task. Language Learning, 1-29. http://doi.org/10.1111/lang.12157

Hauser, P. C., Paludnevičiene, R., Supalla, T., & Bavelier, D. (2008). American Sign LanguageSentence Reproduction Test: Development and implications. In R. M. de Quadros (ed.), Sign Language: Spinning and unraveling the past, present and future (pp. 160-172). Petropolis, Brazil: Editora Arara Azul.

Holmström, I. (2018). Teaching Swedish Sign Language as second language to interpreter students. Proceedings from the Nordic Seminar, Umeå, Sweden, 23-25 February 2018.

Klem, M., Melby-Lervåg, M., G, M., Hagtvet, B., Lyster, S. A. H., Gustafsson, J. E., & Hulme, C. (2015). Sentence repetition is a measure of children’s language skills rather than working memory limitations. Developmental Science, 18(1), 146–154. http://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12202

Rosen, R. S. (2004). Beginning L2 production errors in ASL lexical phonology: A cognitive phonology model. Sign Language & Linguistics, 7(1), 31–61. http://doi.org/10.1075/sll.7.1.04beg

Schönström, K. (2014). Swedish Sign Language Sentence Reproduction Test (SSL-SRT). Unpublished test, Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Linguistics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Imitation test, sign language, phonology, assessment
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Sign Language
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176725OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-176725DiVA, id: diva2:1377073
Conference
13th conference of Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research, Hamburg, Germany, 26-28 September 26-28, 2019
Projects
UTL2 - Undervisning i svenskt teckenspråk som andraspråkAvailable from: 2019-12-10 Created: 2019-12-10 Last updated: 2019-12-11Bibliographically approved

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