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DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING A ROMANIAN SIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM

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Abstract

The current paper displays the first part of a study regarding a Romanian Sign Language Curriculum developed for university students. Our approach is rooted in the communication theories and adopted a sociolinguistic framework. In the initial part of the article, we have discussed the basic components of Sign Language pedagogy in terms of language structure and teaching competence. The theoretical framework presents an analytical review of the main theories which were used in designing a Sign Language curriculum. Based on this literature review we engaged in our study by creating the necessary educational resources and by planning a Romanian curriculum. The second part of this article describes the focus-groups and the main framework that was used to deliver the training and to assess the participants. The results presented here are just a part of the study that is still ongoing until the end of 2021.
Source:EDUCATION AND APPLIED DIDACTICS
EDUCATION AND APPLIED DIDACTICS
Location: Romania
Author(s):Ioana Letiția Șerban, Ioana Tufar
Title:DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING
A ROMANIAN SIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM
DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING
A ROMANIAN SIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM
Issue:2/2020
Citation
style:
Ioana Letiția Șerban, Ioana Tufar. "DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING
A ROMANIAN SIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM". EDUCATION AND APPLIED
DIDACTICS 2:22-39.
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Education and Applied Didactics
EAD
2020, 4(2), December, 22-39
DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING
A ROMANIAN SIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM
Ioana Letiția Șerban Ioana Tufar 
Babeș Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Abstract
The current paper displays the first part of a study regarding a Romanian Sign Language
Curriculum developed for university students. Our approach is rooted in the communication
theories and adopted a sociolinguistic framework. In the initial part of the article, we have
discussed the basic components of Sign Language pedagogy in terms of language structure and
teaching competence. The theoretical framework presents an analytical review of the main
theories which were used in designing a Sign Language curriculum. Based on this literature
review we engaged in our study by creating the necessary educational resources and by planning
a Romanian curriculum. The second part of this article describes the focus-groups and the main
framework that was used to deliver the training and to assess the participants. The results
presented here are just a part of the study that is still ongoing until the end of 2021.
Keywords: Romanian Sign Language, curriculum, training sessions, language acquisition
Introduction
Acquisition of Sign Language has proved a growing interest in the
bilingual-bicultural context of recognizing sign languages as real and rich
languages and many programs of teaching Sign Language as second language
were developed at different age levels for children and adults. Researchers like
Chen Pichler and Koulidobrova (2015) analysed the extent to which typical
patterns of learning a new language are involved in teaching Sign Language as
Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to:
Sindicatelor St, No. 7, cab. 23-24, Cluj-Napoca, Cluj County, Romania. E-mail:
ioana.serban@ubbcluj.ro
 Sindicatelor St, No.7, cab. 28-29, Cluj-Napoca, Cluj County, Romania. E-mail:
ioana.tufar@ubbcluj.ro
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second language and they underlined the importance of facilitating the process
through: co-speech gestures, emblems, iconicity, transfer from previous
experiences and the universals. Taking into consideration a few important
aspects of Sign Languages as the lexicon, non-manuals signs, or morphosyntax,
we need to develop strategies for the students to acquire the language starting
with the vocabulary, continuing with using it in real communicational contexts
and including cultural features.
According to Quinto-Pozos (2011), in order to address various points
regarding Sign Language pedagogy, it is useful to mention those aspects which
influence the way it can be taught. First, Sign Language does not have a writing
system, the structure is influenced by the ability to display meaningful streams of
information simultaneously, both manual and non-manual articulators participate
in the lexical, morphological, and syntactic constructs of the language,
simultaneity differs from the highly sequential structure that is representative of
spoken language, and this may influence how adult hearing learners are able to
process the visual input. Additionally, aspects of the vocabulary and grammar of
signed languages have often been described as iconic where the form of a lexical
item resembles in some way to the referent. Current perspectives consider visual
iconicity to be a prevalent factor in the organization of sign languagesa factor
existing alongside arbitrariness and within conventionalized grammatical
patterns. This viewpoint, and an increasing availability of relevant data, may
inform the study of potential modality effects of iconicity in language
development (Lillo-Martin, Henner, 2020).
Teaching's focus on socio-pragmatic competence is of crucial importance
because this is the way Sign Language becomes a real language. In this context
learning new signs depends both on the perceptual characteristics of the sign and
on the subject's ability to make associations between the sign and its meaning.
The perception of iconicity depends on aspects of time, culture, and past
experiences. We must mention that the first signs to be taught can be selected by
the simplicity with which the sign can be executed, and by aspects related to the
iconicity.
Theoretical background
Learning a new language involves by default using a structured and
validated methodology. Different trainers in Sign Languages from various
countries have used several types of curricula depending on their own vision on
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the theoretical, empirical, or pedagogical characteristics of Sign Language (SL).
The resources employed within the SL training can vary regarding themes
selection, language structure presentation and vocabulary, morphosyntactic or
cultural information.
The content, the language type and the teaching strategies promoted within
a curriculum convey specific meanings according to the language and the
psychological approach, which in turn are frequently influenced by the main
theories of language and communication, by the teaching and learning styles and
by the values of a social community (Rosen, 2010).
From a language perspective, we always look at the components and the
rules of construction in a language. We examine the models of linguistic
structure that determine the rules of morphosyntax (OGrady, 2004).
From the psychological perspective of learning we aim the learning
processes and the language acquisition modalities. The learning process is
governed by psychological processes and describes the specific human ability to
create language, the different paths to conceive it and the methods engaged for
learning new languages. Teaching a new language involves presenting
vocabulary constructs and rules of grammar to create linguistic structures,
functional tasks, and exercises for using that language (Brown, 2006).
A Sign Language curriculum should incorporate also cultural information
that includes grammar rules and SL knowledge about different social situations
and with diverse people as well as historical, political, economic, and social
features of a community.
Rosen (2010) made a literature review of the psychological and linguistic
theories together with the pedagogical approach of various SL curricula used by
teachers in the US. According to this review we can find 3 learning theories:
behaviourism, linguistics, and communication theory.
From a SL curriculum perspective, behaviourism acknowledges traditional
grammar rules and encompasses linguistic features and rules that are memorized.
This theory suggests that the learners do not act freely, but in response to
external incentives in a predetermined way. Behaviourism postulates that
individuals learn by conditioning. As such, the teaching strategy consists in
presenting vocabulary and the learners are acquiring it by modelling, drills, and
routine memorization (Kelly, 2009).
Curricula based on linguistics reflect essential and universal morpho-
syntactic features. They rely on a basic vocabulary and on grammar rules that are
necessary in conversation. As a teaching strategy, the mentor presents
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vocabulary and sentences clarifying them with the support of grammar rules
thus illustrating the larger context. The learners analyse the given vocabulary and
generate sentences using the syntactical rules of SL. Ellis (2002a, 2002b) claims
that teaching grammar is what supports the development of language abilities.
The communication theory approached from a SL curriculum point of view
presents sociolinguistics as a theory of language in society. The content of the
curriculum is reflected in social situations. The teacher presents vocabulary and
demonstrates how it is applied in a conversation. The learners will create
conversations about different social contexts in a dialogue or a monologue.
Embodied theories of language acquisition predict that symbols are learnt easier
when they are grounded in first-hand experiences (Caselli & Piers, 2020).
Therefore, the experience of practicing the signs in different social context will
ensure a better comprehension.
In behaviourism, the curricular resources highlight the learning of SL
through exercises, translations, and mechanical memorization of fixed
phonological and morpho-syntactical structures. In the content of these courses
there are different topics divided by linguistic categories which are organized in
units containing sentences and a vocabulary section. The topics include personal
and possessive pronouns, basic syntactic forms with nouns, adjectives, adverbs,
verbs and tenses, numerals, plurals, interrogative, and negative forms,
identifying and measuring time and quantity. The dialogues are organized in
conversational activities like storytelling, asking for something, giving
information, describing, offering orientation guiding and personal information
about family, school, travelling, activities, and future plans. There is no cultural
information throughout the curriculum. At the end of the training material the
following are listed: fingerspelling, numbers, and a vocabulary index.
Each course consists of describing the language structures with examples
and illustrations. The lessons are structured in sequences which begin with
explaining the topic, signing the vocabulary and sentences, continue with
exercising the given sentences and end with specifications on how to use the
signs they have learnt. As a teaching method, the learners receive the vocabulary
and the phrases that are going to be studied and memorized. In the next phase
they are presented with similar sentences which are accompanied by questions.
They answer the questions based on the information given in the sentences.
Further on, they are exercising new expressions for which they have to create
phrases by using the structures they have learnt. Within the substitution
exercises, the learners will replace one sign with another in each sentence,
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keeping the initial phrasing. In this type of curriculum, the learners have no
opportunity to create their own phrases. The value of this method comes from
learning high-frequency signs from the teacher. The vocabulary is constructed
based on this feature. Lexical frequency is one of the most powerful
psycholinguistic constructs in language production. Words with a high-
frequency are named quicker and more precisely than words with low-
frequency, the so-called frequency effect (Baus, 2015; Jescheniak & Levelt,
1994; Jescheniak, 2003; Kittredge, 2008; Navarrete, 2006; Strijkers, 2010).
Correspondingly, frequency affects lexical access during sign production: high-
frequency signs are produced more rapidly and more precise than low-frequency
signs (Emmorey, 2012; Emmorey, 2013), supporting the related design of lexical
access during word and sign production.
The educational resources which support the linguistic theory are based on
learning SL through analysing grammar rules. The topics presented to the
students include different types of phrases (declarative, interrogative, relative,
negative, conditional) as well as nouns, verbs, adverbs, numerals, possessive and
reflexive pronouns, plurals, and tenses. The courses are structured according to
the following pattern:
Written summary of a story
Signed summary
A video of the signed summary by a Deaf interpreter
A text analysis together with grammar notes according to SL rules
Presenting a vocabulary list
Presenting the rules used for creating sentences
Isolated signs and sentences are learnt only by gestures and signing no
voice allowed
In the exercising section, the students receive sentences which have
expressions that can be replaced, and they must substitute those with similar
ones.
The educational resources also have cultural information, but these are
not linked with the teaching activities.
The communication theory suggests that individuals best learn a new
language by socializing and not rote memorization of language rules. Thus, by a
well-defined social context, people learn how to create a linguistic content and
how to attribute it with a meaning by communicating with each other. The
educational resources used in this approach present topics like morning routines,
meals of the day, home activities, shopping, dressing, colours, education,
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finances, health, work, hobbies, and leisure activities. In the curriculum there are
revision sections and exercise segments as well as patterns and tables of
grammar rules. Each unit contains cultural information some of which are
related to the studied topic. The teaching activities are organized in the following
manner:
Vocabulary lists and dialogue phrases
Videos with SL conversations
The teacher asks questions, and the students give answers according to
the information from the dialogues/ conversations that they have previously
watched
Practice of the studied dialogues among the students
SL activities and games
This type of curricular resources highlights the learning of conversational
rules for a series of social situations. The topics are abundant in social contexts
in which the students can practice the signs they learn. Even though vocabulary
and grammar rules are presented, the curriculum encourages the interaction
between students. Thus, through communication and direct experiencing, the
students will develop a fluency in SL (Kelly, 2009).
As a conclusion of these educational resources and of the literature review
that fundaments them it is important to state the following aspects:
The students must develop expressive and receptive abilities in SL by
participating in shared social situations like exchanging information, negotiating,
asking for attention, confirming information, clarifying a topic or expressing the
lack of understanding, using correctly phonology, syntax, semantics and
pragmatic SL features.
Students must be presented with information about Deaf/ Hard of
Hearing people, the Deaf community and culture. This information should be
integrated in the educational resources so that the students have enough
opportunities to participate in different cultural activities of the Deaf community.
The teachers should have a training in teaching / interpreting SL and
should promote social networks and the use of SL in the right situations (Rosen,
2008). Hathazi and Rosan (2019) state the importance of cultural and social
aspects that need to be considered, but also the need for individualization
regarding teacher training. In their opinion, individualization refers to the current
level of development, but also to the prior learning experiences, the functionality
of the content of learning, and the systems of support that are available.
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Study of implementing a Romanian Sign Language (RSL) Curriculum
Objectives
1. Creating an educational resource adapted for RSL courses for
undergraduate students.
2. Establishing focus-groups and delivering the resources.
3. Using a diversity of social situations in the RSL teaching and learning
process.
4. Making a video recording by each of the students where they present a
story/ activity in a specific social context.
5. Setting the assessment criteria for the receptive and expressive RSL
abilities.
6. Analysing video recordings to evaluate the receptive and expressive RSL
abilities.
Method
The educational resource was created according to the communication
theory with a strong emphasize on sociolinguistics. The topics were selected
after a thorough review of the course contents used previously with
undergraduate 3rd year students by the two trainers involved in this study.
During several working sessions, the trainers have established the selection
criteria for the educational material:
Basic vocabulary composed of daily activities concepts including nouns,
adjectives, verbs, personal and possessive pronouns, plurals, interrogative and
negative forms, tenses, numerals, space and time orientation.
Cultural information about the Deaf community, RSL and how to use
signs, the diversity of signs, how to sign correctly, the role of lipreading, facial
expressions, postures and eyes in expressing/ receiving RSL messages.
Presenting videos, online apps and platforms/ web sites about RSL.
Identifying national institutions and organizations which make use of
RSL in their educational or non-formal activities. The aim of this is to create
opportunities for the students to participate in activities and events designed for
Deaf/ Hard of Hearing individuals.
We have created 10 focus groups, consisting of ten participants each. They
were equally distributed between the two mentors. The period for implementing
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the educational material is between September 2020 and June 2021. Each focus
group is working in an interactive manner with the mentor for an amount of 20
hours. Each participant is working individually and online another 20 hours, at
the end of which they must present a video with themselves signing a story/
activity. The video must be at least 3 minutes long, but not longer than 10
minutes.
During the group activities, the mentors were encouraging the participants
to prepare messages about the daily topic. These messages are signed by each of
the participants in RSL and they get a feedback both from a peer regarding the
clarity of the message and the comprehension of the information and from the
mentor concerning the quality of the signs, the use of lips for lipreading
comprehension, body posture, facial expressions, and so on.
The participants will also receive cultural information about how, when and
where to use the signs they have learnt the selection of appropriate social
situations, about possible alternatives of the signs they know depending on the
geographical area or the tradition/ significance of a certain sign or other similar
or identical signs executed exactly the same, but which have a different
meaning.
For the final assessment of the participants, we have used video analysis of
the materials that each participant had to prepare. The assessment criteria of the
receptive and expressive abilities in RSL were:
Clarity of the signing and the comprehension level of the conveyed
message from the video. For this purpose, we used a Likert Scale with points
from 1 to 5.
o We have granted 5 points if the message was fully translated into
Romanian spoken language by another participant.
o We have granted 4 points if the message was translated into Romanian
spoken language with the main ideas, but some small details were left out
details that did not influence the meaning or the general content.
o We have granted 3 points if the message was translated into Romanian
spoken language briefly, with no details to clarify or enrich the meaning.
o We have granted 2 points if the message was incompletely translated
into Romanian spoken language or if the translation contained parts of the
message with no relation to each other.
o We have granted 5 points if we have considered that the message was
not comprehended and no translation into Romanian spoken language could be
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done or if the receiver translated only isolated signs which he/she picked up
during the transmitter’s signing.
Understanding and translation into Romanian spoken language of a
signed message conveyed by another participant (beginner sign level)
Understanding and translation into Romanian spoken language of a
signed message conveyed by the mentor (expert sign level).
We specify that all the videos of the participants have been watched for the
first time during the evaluation session, and until that time, the participants had
no idea whose message they were being asked to translate into Romanian spoken
language. The signed message from the mentors was created on the spot during
the evaluation session and was different for each participant (and at the same
difficulty level).
Results
At this moment of our research, we can present the results of two focus
groups that have already sustained their evaluation session.
Focus-group 1: Out of 10 participants, one has withdrawn at the beginning
of the sessions from personal reasons and the workshop has continued with 9
people. All the 9 remaining participants have learnt the signs on a fast pace and
have dynamically presented different social situations when practicing
communication in RSL.
Two of them have chosen for each session to present their own person and
their family, adding new signed elements in each meeting. None of them has
ever changed the social context until the end of the training, even though the
others have presented a different situation each time around.
Seven of the participants presented different social situations for each
session. Out of these we point out: travelling, pet stories, favourite activities,
holidays, going out (dinners, coffees), childhood stories, dreams.
Following different social contexts and analysing the signs used, every
participant has learnt multiple ways of using the signed knowledge. The first
sessions were used to study the signs made in each of the social situations that
the participants have presented, and they were asked to enrich the content. In the
middle of the training, the mentor has randomly distributed the messages created
by the participants. This way each of them had to continue the story of another
participant. This kind of exercise implied the comprehension of the social
situation constructed up to that point and then inserting new signed information
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to go on with the story. At the same time, the exercise aimed communication
interactions between the participants and conveying as well as assessing the
signed messages. Each participant received feedback both from the first author
of the story and from the mentor.
For the videos at the end of the assessment sessions, four of the participants
have prepared a real situation about their own lives or about elements which they
have mentioned before during training, one participant presented exactly the
same material which was practiced during the training and two of the
participants presented new situations using extensive signs. These last two have
also proved to have very good receptive abilities regarding a signed message at
both beginner and expert sign level. Additionally, the two have decoded almost
every time the signed messages from other peers during the training sessions and
provided support to the others during this process.
The four participants who prepared for the evaluation session videos
regarding their life or activities, have demonstrated good and very good
expressive sign abilities, very good receptive sign abilities of a signed message
from their peers and good receptive abilities of a signed message delivered at
expert sign level.
The participant who has presented the same message from the training
sessions has acquired with slight difficulties the fingerspelling and has used a
lower number of signs than the others, thus needing longer periods of time for
exercising and consolidating the signs. The participant had some difficulties
decoding the beginner sign level message. The message signed by the mentor
was conveyed in spoken language only by a few signs even after 3 recurrences.
Two of the participants in the training sessions have not attended the final
evaluation and will join another group later on for this purpose.
Focus-group 2: out of 10 students initially enrolled, one withdrew because
of objective reasons and the sessions took place with 9 participants. The nine
participants acquired the notions of LSR at their own pace and practiced the
signs both individually and in dyads or in groups. During the basic vocabulary
learning sessions, the practice of signs in various appropriate exercises and social
situations was also performed.
Students practiced the signs learned in accordance with facial expression
and initially fingerspelled words and sentences, and then signed dialogues and
short stories. During the interactive work sessions, they signed about family,
weather, favourite activities, travel, books read, favourite music, pleasant /
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unpleasant events. Three of the participants had difficulties when their
teammates fingerspelled at high speed.
By analysing expression in different contexts and practicing expressions in
LSR, each student acquired receptive and expressive signing skills. In the first
sessions, fingerspelling, usual greetings, and basic signs from various meaning
categories were learned, then it went from simple to complex in expression and
understanding. In the fifth meeting, the task of continuing the previous statement
proved that the active vocabulary allowed the students to make complex and
interesting narrative sequences.
For the video material at the end of the training sessions, three of the
participants prepared a real situation related to their family, one participant
presented a material about his plans and dreams for the future, two other
participants presented particularities of their hobbies, two participants presented
longer videos in which they captured many elements learned in the training
sessions and explained ideas from their favourite book, another participant
signed a cake recipe. The recorded videos captured how participants struggled to
coordinate the meaning of the concepts and facial expressions as a non-manual
sign needed in effective communication.
Regarding the receptive level of LSR, three of the participants encountered
difficulties both in understanding at the beginner level (when a colleague signed)
and at the advanced level (when the trainer signed). Three other participants
almost always decoded the LSR messages sent by colleagues during the training
sessions and supported the others in this process. Significant differences were
observed in the presence of lipreading both in the decoding fingerspelled words
or sentences and in the level of comprehension of signed expressions.
For an ambidextrous participant, signing complex concepts with two parts
sequences was a challenge and it was needed a longer time to practice this type
of signs. A struggle was not to switch the hand in the middle of sentences and in
the end the participant was constant in using the right hand as the dominant
hand.
A summary of the receptive and expressive RSL skills assessment session is
displayed in Table 1.
The ranking of the participants according to their final assessment results, in
terms of the level they have achieved, as well as the average level attained by all
the participants so far, is shown in Table 2.
Table 1
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RSL receptive and expressive skills assessed in the evaluation sessions.
Participant
Expressive
RSL skills
Receptive
skills
RSL
message
at
beginner
level
Receptive
skills
RSL
message at
advanced
level
Final
assessment
(average of
expressive
skills +
receptive
skills
mean)
P1
5
5
5
5
P2
4
5
3
4
Table 1 continued
P3
4
4
2
3.5
P4
5
5
5
5
P5
5
5
4
4.75
P6
5
5
5
5
P7
4
4
3
3.75
P8
5
5
5
5
P9
5
5
5
5
P10
4
5
4
4.75
P11
5
5
5
5
P12
4
4
4
4
P13
5
4
5
4.75
P14
4
3
4
3.75
P15
5
5
5
5
P16
4
4
3
3.75
Table 2
Ranking according to the level achieved
No of participants
(Total N=16)
Percentage
Level
7
43.75%
5
5
31.25%
4-4.99
4
25%
3-3.99
Total: 16
Total: 100%
Average level attained by
the group: 4.77
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After the training and the evaluation session, we have asked all the
participants to fill in a survey about the signs they have learnt. The results are
discussed here. For the first statement It is easy for me to do fingerspelling,
66.7% of the respondents were in complete agreement and the rest of 33.3% said
they mostly agree with it. When asked about how easy it is to understand
fingerspelling, only 16.7% responded it is very easy; 25% said it was quite easy;
41.7% answered it was not easy, but also not difficult and the rest of 16.7% said
it was quite difficult for them to understand fingerspelling. Most of the
participants, 66.7%, said that they remembered better the signs that are made
with a hand configuration related to the fingerspelling. Also, 91.7% of the
participants answered they remembered better the signs that were explained in
terms of meaning or the culture or the history behind them. 66.7% of the
participants recognize better the signs which are accompanied by appropriate
facial expressions, while 25% were mostly in agreement with this statement and
only 1% answered they do not agree, nor disagree with it.
In Table 3 we have presented the ratings for remembering the signs, in
terms of lexical categories. Our participants have found pronouns the easiest and
the adverbs the most difficult to remember. No participant so far has found any
of the lexical categories very difficult to remember. Around 8% of the
participants have also found the verbs category difficult to remember.
Table 3
Ratings for remembering the signs according to lexical categories.
Lexical
categories
Very easy
Easy
Medium
Difficult
Very
difficult
Pronouns
50%
33.3%
16.7%
-
-
Nouns
25%
41.7%
33.3%
-
-
Verbs
25%
41.7%
25%
8.3%
-
Adjectives
16.6%
25%
58.4%
-
-
Adverbs
-
33.3%
41.7%
25%
-
Table 4 shows the ratings of the participants for signing. We kept the lexical
categories as points of reference. The results indicate that in terms of signing the
participants did not find any of the categories difficult to sign. Therefore, the
most difficult level was marked the medium one, for verbs, adjectives and
adverbs (25% of the participants checked this option), while only 16% and 8%
have marked pronouns and, respectively nouns as medium difficult to sign. At
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the other end, the easiest signs were found to be the pronouns and the verbs (both
with 41%).
Table 4
Ratings for signing according to lexical categories.
Lexical
categories
Very easy
Easy
Medium
Difficult
Very
difficult
Pronouns
41.7%
41.7%
16.6%
-
-
Nouns
25%
66.7%
8.3%
-
-
Verbs
41.7%
33.3%
25%
-
-
Adjectives
25%
50%
25%
-
-
Adverbs
25%
50%
25%
-
-
The final ratings are presented in Table 5 and they illustrate sign
recognition. Our participants have found pronouns the easiest category to be
recognized from a signer (41.7% marked it as very easy, while 33.3% said it it
easy to read). The verbs were a controversial category. For 33.3% of the
participants, they were very easy to read, while 25% said it was easy, and the
same percentage said it was medium difficult. Still, there were 16% who marked
verbs as difficult to recognize in signing. This finding will be observed in further
groups because we did not expect to have verbs marked as difficult to recognize
given their iconicity in Romanian Sign Language.
Table 5
Ratings for sign recognition according to lexical categories
Lexical
categories
Very easy
Easy
Medium
Difficult
Very
difficult
Pronouns
41.7%
33.3%
25%
-
-
Nouns
-
66.7%
33.3%
-
-
Verbs
33.3%
25%
25%
16.7%
-
Adjectives
8.3%
50%
41.7%
-
-
Adverbs
-
33.3%
58.4%
8.3%
-
Conclusions
The data revealed that a large percentage of the participants considered
fingerspelling easier to produce than to recognize and to understand. This aspect
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36
is researched also by Baker (2010) and Tapio (2012) who explained that
difficulties in fingerspelling are due to its complex process in which words are
formed by combining morphemic sequences that retain their character as
individual signs and the signer needs to see the shapes mirrored. Tufar (2018)
mentioned on one side Wilcox’s theory (1992) about global approach in
fingerspelling that involves an investigation at the level of hand configuration
and of the concepts meaning and mentioned also MacGlaughlin (2016) who
proved that fingerspelling represents items spelled as gestalt units and that
typescripts are free morphemes of sign language that have a specific form,
meaning and referent. Moreover, Alawad and Musyoka (2018) indicated that the
use of fingerspelling could support vocabulary and literacy development among
bilingual deaf students.
Facial expression was another aspect that the participants stated as very
important. In the same idea, Elliott & Jacobs (2013) explained how facial
expressions, emotions and Sign Languages are interrelated and summarized
findings on the use and acquisition of facial expressions by signers and present a
unified account of the range of facial expressions used by referring to three
dimensions on which facial expressions vary: semantic, compositional, and
iconic.
Taking into consideration the level of understanding the meaning of the
signs, two aspects were obvious when analysing the data. First, the participants
in this study declared that it was easier for them to understand the signs that
contained in their structure an fingerspelled item like in the signs:
Communication (produced with the fingerspelled C), vegetable (produced with
the help of fingerspelled L), January (also contains fingerspell i), Friday
(produced using the V fingerspelled), yellow (contains the Y fingerspelling). A
second observation was that the signs are easier to be understand and to be
produced if they are iconic and if a correlation to a concrete concept is made.
Vinson, Thompson, Skinner, Vigliocco (2015) conducting three experiments,
founded out that iconicity in BSL facilitated picturesign matching,
phonological decision, and picture naming. In comprehension the effect of
iconicity did not interact with other factors, but in production it was observed
only for later-learned signs. These findings suggest that iconicity serves to
activate conceptual features related to perception and action during lexical
processing.
We consider that the realization of this first part of a future larger study
contributes significantly to the development of knowledge in the field of
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37
Romanian Sign Language by two main directions: the first being the study of
literature and the second being the empirical investigations. Because this study
addresses a research topic little explored by Romanian researchers, certainly the
research results can significantly contribute to raising the academic
understanding of Romanian Sign Language teaching and to identify the
pragmatic implications of the results.
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