Sign Language Comprehension Different for Right or Left-handed Signers
Author: University of Birmingham : Contact: bham.ac.uk
Synopsis and Key Points:
Study reveals the speed at which sign language users understand what others are signing depends on whether the conversation partners are left or right-handed.
The speed at which sign language users understand what others are 'saying' to them depends on whether the conversation partners are left- or right-handed, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham worked with British Sign Language (BSL) signers to see how differences in sign production affect sign comprehension. In BSL a signer's dominant hand produces all one-handed signs and 'leads' when producing two-handed signs.
They discovered that in general right and left-handed signers respond faster when they were watching a right-handed signer.
However, left-handed signers responded more quickly to complex two-handed signs made by signers who 'led' with their left hand. Similarly, right-handed signers reacted more swiftly to two-handed signs from fellow right-handers.
PhD student Freya Watkins and Dr. Robin Thompson published their research in the journal Cognition (April 2017).
Dr Robin Thompson commented:
"Had all signers performed better to right-handed input, it would suggest that how signers produce their own signs is not important for understanding. This is because right-handed signers are most common and signers are most used to seeing right-handed signs."
"However, as left-handed signers are better at understanding fellow left-handers for two-handed signs, the findings suggest that how people produce their own signs plays a part in how quickly they can understand others' signing."
Forty-three Deaf fluent BSL signers took part in the experiment, which had both right and left-handed participants make judgements about signs produced by left or right-handed sign models.
Participants were shown a picture followed by the sign for common words such as 'chocolate', 'guitar' and 'desk', and then were asked to decide if the picture and sign matched. The question was whether or not handedness during sign production would influence sign comprehension.
The results are in line with a weak version of the motor theory of speech perception - that people perceive spoken words in part by checking in with their own production system, but only when comprehension becomes difficult, for example in a noisy environment.
- 1 - Policy Changes Needed for American Sign language and English Language Learners : Linguistic Society of America (2018/06/11)
- 2 - Sign Language May Offer Answer to Meaning of Music : New York University (2017/08/16)
- 3 - Purple Enhances P3 Deaf and Hearing Impaired Communications Application : Purple Communications (2010/01/21)
- 4 - British Sign Language: Facts and Information : Neil Payne/George Spence (2009/01/20)
- 5 - American Sign Language Facts and Information : Disabled World (2009/01/20)
- 6 - SRV Canada Video Relay Service for People with Hearing Disability : Canadian Administrator of VRS (CAV), Inc. (2016/09/29)
- 7 - Study Into How Children With Cochlear Implants Learn Words : MediaSource (2017/02/27)
• Disabled World is strictly a news and information website provided for general informational purpose only and does not constitute medical advice. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on disabled-world.com does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.
• Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.