Learning to Read without Sound: Literacy Across Deaf Poopulations

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2019
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Swarthmore College. Dept. of Linguistics
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en
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Full copyright to this work is retained by the student author. It may only be used for non-commercial, research, and educational purposes. All other uses are restricted.
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Abstract
Multiple studies have shown that the best deaf readers are those who use sign language as their primary means of communication rather than an oral language. This thesis first seeks to answer the question of why this is the case. It is hypothesized that deaf signers are better readers because sign language is more easily acquired as a full first language by deaf children, and as such, deaf signers have the general linguistic skills necessary to acquire a written language. It is found that the orally-educated deaf have overall diminished language skills and, like deaf signers, are unable to access phonological representations of language when reading; as such, they are at a disadvantage when acquiring literacy through phonological means. After it is determined that early language access, which is best facilitated through the use of sign languages in deaf populations, is paramount in ensuring literacy skills, this thesis then seeks to determine how deaf readers translate their language skills into reading skills, using evidence primarily from the dual-route theory of reading (DRT). The DRT consists of two routes: a route based on auditory phonology and a route based on lexical knowledge. It is found that the second route is more important in deaf literacy than the first, which is consistent with what we know about how deaf readers use (or don't use) phonological knowledge when reading.
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