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Signing With Babies And Children: Transparency and Babies' Understanding of How Language Works

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Transparency and Babies' Understanding of How Language Works

In sign language, nearly all the signs for body parts are made by pointing to the specific body part. For example, 'nose', 'eyes', 'mouth', 'arm', 'hair', 'ear', are all signed by pointing to the specific body part. These body parts represent the meaning of transparent. You will often see a baby point to his various body parts when you ask him/her, ‘Where is your nose? Where is your mouth?” This is an example of the beauty of a language that has signs that are transparent and/or iconic. When the sign actually looks like the meaning of the word, or in this case is the body part, it is easier for a baby to process and comprehend the way language works. So when a baby points to objects or body parts, s/he is actually saying ‘this is my nose’. This is visual transparency.

When a baby learns the sounds that animals make, this is auditory transparency. He actually hears the cat say 'meow' or the dog say 'woof woof', so s/he often assigns those corresponding sounds to those respective animals. Sign language takes these animals and assigns a visual sign that is closely linked to the meaning of the animal, again reinforcing the benefits of learning sign language which may initially consist of many visually transparent or iconic signs.

1 comment:

My Baby Details said...

I feel smarter all ready! I am now better acquainted with the term transparency. Thank you for sharing.

My five month old and I will soon be doing these steps as I joyfully help him learn the different parts of his face and body. And the other day I introduced him to a cat for the first time while trying to sign cat in his direction of sight (he was engaging with the cat more than me at the time^_^). Next time I'll add the "meow" along with the sign to incorporate auditory transparency.

Teaching sign language to my little ones truly allows for unique bonding experiences that I may not have otherwise taken advantage of (such as seeking out the kitty cat to have the opportunity to sign and introduce "cat").

Thank you again for sharing.