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Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education$
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Marc Marschark, Gladys Tang, and Harry Knoors

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199371815

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371815.001.0001

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Sign Language and Reading Comprehension

Sign Language and Reading Comprehension

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(p.102) 5 Sign Language and Reading Comprehension
Bilingualism and Bilingual Deaf Education

Daniel Holzinger

Johannes Fellinger

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the relationship between sign language use, sign language skills, and reading comprehension. Theoretical foundations of sign bilingualism and current evidence from sign bilingual programs are discussed in the context of Cummins’s interdependence hypothesis of bilingualism. Proponents of bilingual programs based on the interdependence principle argue that there is a quasi-automatic transfer of proficiencies from a natural sign language to literacy in the majority language. That view is challenged by two Austrian datasets of students with profound bilateral hearing loss. The results suggest that the use of sign language in the education of children with profound hearing loss does not automatically support reading skills in L2. However, sign language proficiencies can scaffold reading comprehension if sign language is introduced early and is used systematically and consistently in the family and in school. Otherwise, there is no advantage of sign language use and skills for reading comprehension.

Keywords:   sign language, reading comprehension, hearing loss, bilingual, interdependence hypothesis

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