Recent research has examined the early stages of language development in signed and spoken language. In this paper we discuss claims that, in the timing of early language milestones, there is an advantage for the acquisition of signed languages. In particular, we will review the evidence that the emergence of the first signs and of the first twosign combinations is precocious in signing children as compared to the appearance of the first words and of the first two-word strings in speaking children. We conclude that the evidence for early emergence of the first signs deserves continued attention, but that the evidence for early syntax in signing children is not at all compelling. Finally, we discuss the import of a short-lived sign advantage in early language acquisition, in terms of understanding maturational timing mechanisms more generally. Specifically, we address the question of whether or not a single timing mechanism underlies early milestones in the acquisition of both vocabulary and syntax.


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pp. 1-23
Launched on MUSE
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