Expressing Meaning: From Prelinguistic Communication to Building Vocabulary

Amy R. Lederberg and Jennifer S. Beal-Alvarez

in The Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Volume 1, Second Edition

Second edition

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199750986
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Expressing Meaning: From Prelinguistic Communication to Building Vocabulary

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  • Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology


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This chapter reviews research on communication and vocabulary development of deaf and hard of hearing children with hearing parents from infancy through preschool, as well as features of their language learning environment. Important aspects of early development include the acquisition of complex vocalizations or babbling, intentional communication, joint attention, and the pragmatic function and role of language in communication with others. Vocabulary development is described by exploring changes in vocabulary size, growth rate, lexicon content, and the ability to learn novel words quickly. The final section reviews research on the characteristics of parental input that may affect the rate of vocabulary development. Throughout the chapter, changes in developmental trajectories resulting from early identification and intervention, and improved technologies (i.e., digital hearing aids and cochlear implants) are described.

Keywords: deaf; hearing loss; hard-of-hearing; cochlear implants; vocabulary; language; babbling; gesture; communication skills; pragmatics; novel word learning; mother-–child communication

Article.  13262 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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