Beyza Sümer, postdoctoral researcher at CLS, Radboud University, and lecturer at the UvA, is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar.
Iconicity, i.e., the visual resemblance between a linguistic form and its referent, is a prevalent characteristic of sign languages. However, there has been mixed evidence about its role for sign language acquisition. In my talk, I will present sign language acquisition data elicited from MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) adapted for Turkish Sign Language (TİD), and also the data elicited from picture descriptions of the entities in different locative spatial relations (e.g., a pen on a paper, an apple right to a box). The findings indicate that iconicity has varying influences for different domains of sign language acquisition. In early lexical sign development, iconic signs in TİD were found to be acquired earlier than less iconic signs – corroborating similar findings from other sign languages (Caselli & Pyers, 2017; Thompson, Vinson, Woll, & Vigliocco, 2012). Moreover, actionbased signs were favoured by TİD acquiring children, and also by their deaf parents while interacting with their deaf children. Facilitating effect of iconicity was also observed in the domain of spatial language: TİD acquiring children achieved adult-like patterns in encoding “left-right” type of spatial relations, which are notoriously challenging in spoken language development, earlier than their Turkish acquiring peers. However, such facilitating effect was not observed for “in, on, under” type of spatial relations, for which TİD and Turkish acquiring children became adult-like at similar ages. These findings, therefore, suggest that different domains of sign language acquisition are modulated differently by iconicity.