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Understanding the Contribution of Bimodal Bilingualism to Speech Perception during the Preschool Years

Ora Debi


In this project, conceived by Dr. Rama Novogrodsky and Prof. Irit Meir* we explore the contribution of early sign language acquisition to speech perception of bilingual bimodal children.

* We note with sorrow the untimely death of Irit Meir, our colleague and dear friend on February 23, 2018.


Little is known about the relationship between early sign language input and the development of speech perception of spoken language in children who use cochlear implants. Speech perception is the ability to match phonetic strings to meaning in words and sentences. If top-down processing of speech perception is restricted only to the auditory modality, early sign language will not facilitate speech perception. However, if top-down processing effects are cross-modal, one might expect to find that early sign language exposure facilitates speech perception. Our project systematically explores the relationships between spoken and signed language exposure in early childhood and the contribution of both languages in speech perception of deaf children.

In the first stage of the project, we explore the developmental features of Israeli Sign Language (ISL), developing language assessment tools for ISL signing pre-school children. In the second stage of the project, we will explore the contribution of both languages used by deaf signing children (ISL and Hebrew) to their speech perception capacities. The research is supported by the Israeli Science Fund (ISF) grant number 1068/16.

The research team includes Adi Steg, Anne Marie Baer, Natalia Meir, Ora Ohanin, Roni Beit-Halachmi and Tamar Halutzi.


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