Newport (1988) has noted differences in how American Sign Language (ASL) is used by the following three groups of deaf adults: those with deaf parents (native signers); those, with hearing parents, who learned ASL upon entering school at age 5 years (early signers); and those who learned to sign after puberty (late signers). The present study extends this research to children by investigating the use of morphological inflections in ASL by native and early signers. Thirty deaf children between ages 3 and 9 years were asked to sign a story in ASL. The videotaped stories were analyzed for morphological and contextual complexity. Qualitative differences were found between native and early signers on measures relating to the aspectual complexity of signs but not on measures relating to the complexity of the utterance. Implications of these differences are discussed in terms of communication at home and ASL use in the classroom.


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pp. 320-324
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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