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Bringing Up Baby with Baby Signs: Language Ideologies and Socialization in Hearing Families

From: Sign Language Studies
Volume 7, Number 4, Summer 2007
pp. 387-430 | 10.1353/sls.2007.0026


This article presents an analysis of the functional roles of "baby signing" in three hearing families in the United States, as well as a discussion of the social and ideological implications of the practice. Baby signing fits neatly into the parenting ideologies prevalent in the professional class in the United States that value early communication with infants and promote the adaptation of the physical, social, and linguistic environment to their perceived needs. In the details of everyday interaction, these baby-signing families used signs to socialize their children into particular interaction rituals. Although the practice of baby signing is based on a positive view of sign language, the relatively quick disappearance of signing from the family discourse as the children grow older will most likely limit any long-term impact on the hearing community's views of sign language.

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