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Advances in the Sign-Language Development of Deaf Children$
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Brenda Schick, Marc Marschark, and Patricia Elizabeth Spencer

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195180947

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195180947.001.0001

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Deaf Children’s Acquisition of Modal Terms

Deaf Children’s Acquisition of Modal Terms

(p.291) 12 Deaf Children’s Acquisition of Modal Terms
Advances in the Sign-Language Development of Deaf Children

Barbara Shaffer

Oxford University Press

While it is important to continue to study cognitive development in children, we can never fully understand how children construe their worlds. Certain linguistic competencies, however, do provide a window into the child’s developing mind and therefore contribute to the overall understanding of child development. Mastery in the use of modal terms (e.g. “have to,” “should,” “can”) is a major linguistic feat, one that suggests much about a child’s cognitive development and social awareness. This chapter explores the emergence of modal terms in deaf children. It focuses primarily on two types of modality: agent-oriented and epistemic. Agent-oriented modals describe conditions placed on main clause agents (e.g. “John must go to the doctor”), while epistemic modals convey the speaker’s beliefs regarding the truth of a proposition (“John could be at the doctor”).

Keywords:   cognitive development, deaf children, modal terms, linguistic competencies

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