People fluent in sign language may simultaneously keep words and signs in their minds as they read, according to an international team of researchers.
In an experiment, deaf readers were quicker and more accurate in determining the meaningful relationship between English word pairs when the word pairs were matched with similar signs, according to Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics and Women's Studies, Penn State. The slightly better reaction time and improved accuracy rate indicates that the readers are able to juggle both English and sign language at the same time.
"If a sign language user is a bilingual juggler they might not respond to the connections between the signs and words in a conscious way," said Kroll, who serves as the director of Penn State's Center for Language Science. "But we can design experiments to measure the unconscious response."
The study shows that sign language users are similar to other bilinguals, said Kroll, who also worked with Jill Morford, professor, University of New Mexico; Erin Wilkinson, assistant professor, University of Manitoba; Agnes Villwock, student, University of Hamburg; and Pilar Pinar, associate professor, Gallaudet University.
"This reflects previous research on bilinguals that shows both languages are active even when they're reading or speaking one language," Kroll said.
According to Morford, who was the lead author for the study, the research also represents the growing acceptance among the scientific community that sign language is a real language.
"This work is critical to help make the science of studying American Sign Language every bit as rigorous as the study of other languages," said Morford.
The researchers, who released their findings in a recent issue of Cognition, tested 19 deaf adults who were fluent in American Sign Language as they decided whether pairs of English words were related or unrelated in m
|Contact: Matt Swayne|