Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Social Sciences/Psychology/Economics
Aria Dockham - Ohio Wesleyan Univeristy
Co-Author(s): Laura Wagner, The Ohio State University
5-year-olds can understand telicity in their native language, Wagner (2006). Adults are able to detect telicity in sign languages, but can 5-year-olds detect telicity in sign languages? Telicity is categorized in to two groups, atelic and telic verbs. Atelic verbs are words that do not have an endpoint, and can, theoretically, continue on indefinitely (ex. think, run, imagine). Telic verbs are words that have a specific endpoint and the events signify an end (ex. buy, decide, leave). Sign languages show telicity through repeated and continuous hand motions (atelic verbs) and through restricted hand motions showing a definite end point (telic verbs). Strickland et al. (2015) showed adults could significantly detect and distinguish iconic telicity in sign language. Compared to adults, children do not have as much skill with problem solving or abstract thinking, as much experience with gestures or talking using their hands, or as advanced vocabularies. Is all this automatically learned and can they see iconic meanings in sign languages? Looking at telicity in sign language with children helps explore the field of sign languages and could later be used to help look at children development.
In Experiment 1, 5-year-olds were shown videos with different verbs in Dutch sign language. Each video had two word choices (one telic, one atelic). The children chose which word choice they thought the video was signing. Neither of the word choices matched what the signed word in the video was. Children were supposed to match this based on telicity. Children were unable to detect telicity in this task, for atelic verbs they got 0.47 correct and for telic verbs they got 0.51 correct, which is not different from chance. In Experiment 2, one of the word options actually matched what the signed video was. Children succeeded at this task for the atelic verbs (0.78 correct) but not for the telic verbs (0.55 correct). Children may have done better with the atelic verbs because they included physical, action verbs (run, float, talk), which they can see and do. 5-year-olds cannot detect telicity, but they may have succeeded at the second task because of iconicity in sign languages, which they can detect and see. Further research consists of showing 5-year-olds the same videos but without word choices and having them say what word they think is being signed and testing the first task with children of different ages to figure out at what age they can succeed based on telicity.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This research was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Faculty Advisor: Laura Wagner, N/A