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Ivimey, Geoffrey Philip (1978) The written syntax of a group of deaf English children with a discussion of the methodological and theoretical problems involved in the study. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Previous investigations of the language skills and performance of children suffering from severe or profound auditory disability have yielded conflicting results. Some research workers have asserted that the deaf have no language and may even lack the ability to acquire linguistic rules. Most workers have made quantitative comparisons between the language of deaf and hearing children and have shown a massive retardation in linguistic development in the former. However they also report numerous errors in the language of the deaf that make it appear often bizarre and usually deviant. No attempt is made to detect whether these errors are random or systematically structured. A rather small number of other workers have shown that the language of their deaf subjects is rule-based but their work is weakened by their reliance on spontaneously generated data and by the imposition of an English-based transformational grammar in the language samples being analysed. The author has developed and previously used with 10-year-old deaf children a controlled elicitation technique of language sampling that avoids the pitfalls involved in using spontaneous data, viz. the problems of interpreting rarely-occurring or absent syntactic forms and of not knowing unambiguously the reference of every utterance. This technique is applied here to a group of profoundly deaf 13-year-old children and it is shown that their language productions are based on systems of structured rules. The elicitation technique is shown to be valid and reliable and is sufficiently sensitive to allow the detection of rather subtle changes between successive developmental stages. The analysis gives insights into the syntactic rules underlying spontaneous language samples taken from the deaf subjects and enables a tentative description of some extended texts to be carried out. It is shown that many of the "errors" described by earlier workers appear not to be so when the texts cease to be approached from the position of normal English, but are viewed as forming part of a language system sui generis.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:23

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