Exploring joint attention in American Sign Language: The influence of sign familiarity
Children’s ability to share attention with another social partner (i.e., joint attention) has been found to support language development. Despite the large amount of research examining the effects of joint attention on language in hearing population, little is known about how deaf children learning sign languages achieve joint attention with their caregivers during natural social interaction and how caregivers provide and scaffold learning opportunities for their children. The present study investigates the properties and timing of joint attention surrounding familiar and novel naming events and their relationship to children’s vocabulary. Naturalistic play sessions of caretaker-child-dyads using American Sign Language were analyzed in regards to naming events of either familiar or novel object labeling events and the surrounding joint attention events. We observed that most naming events took place in the context of a successful joint attention event and that sign familiarity was related to the timing of naming events within the joint attention events. Our results suggest that caregivers are highly sensitive to their child’s visual attention in interactions and modulate joint attention differently in the context of naming events of familiar vs. novel object labels.
Publication typeProceedings paper