Journal Article

Conversations Between Deaf Children and Their Hearing Mothers: Pragmatic and Dialogic Characteristics

Amy R. Lederberg and Victoria S. Everhart

in The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

Volume 5, issue 4, pages 303-322
Published in print September 2000 | ISSN: 1081-4159
Published online September 2000 | e-ISSN: 1465-7325 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/deafed/5.4.303
Conversations Between Deaf Children and Their Hearing Mothers: Pragmatic and Dialogic Characteristics

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We examined communication between hearing mothers and their deaf or hearing children longitudinally at child-ages 22 months and 3 years. Specifically, we analyzed both the effects of child deafness and developmental change on pragmatic and dialogic characteristics of communication. From 22 months to 3 years, deaf and hearing children's communicative skills improved similarly along some dimensions: as they grew older, both deaf and hearing children increased the amount they communicated, became increasingly responsive to their mothers’ attentional focus, and were responsible for initiating a higher proportion of the dyads’ conversations. On the other hand, deaf children were less skilled at maintaining topics, and the pragmatic function of their communication was more likely to be unclear compared to hearing children. Deaf children were also more likely to direct their mothers and less likely to ask questions than hearing children. Communication by hearing mothers was primarily examined to determine the degree to which they controlled the interactions. Overall, mothers of deaf children were only more controlling along one dimension. Mothers of deaf children used more response controls than mothers of hearing children. However, the majority of measures suggested they did not exert more topic or turn-taking controls than did mothers of hearing children. In addition, mothers of deaf and hearing children seemed equally sensitive to their children's communication abilities. Communication by mothers of both deaf and hearing children changed in similar ways as their children developed. Most of the differences in communication by mothers of deaf and hearing children seemed attributable to the deaf children's linguistic delays. The results suggest that intervention efforts should be focused on fostering linguistic development and not general communication skills or changing maternal conversational control.

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Subjects: Education ; Linguistics ; Teaching of Specific Groups and Special Educational Needs

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