The narrative discourse of deaf children : a concept of story
There is an increasing interest in the complex issues of how we describe and chart the development of the child's skills in text-making and narrative. Observation of deaf children's language has tended to concentrate on their phonology. Various ways of measuring the syntactic structures at the phrase, clause and sentence level have been developed. From this 'bottom up' approach we have some knowledge of the deaf child's linguistic competence. We also have some knowledge about their communicative competence with familiar people in highly constructed situations. However, we do not know enough about what happens when a child is involved in a communicative episode such as storytelling, where they are trying to make sense in ways that are relatively autonomous without the scaffolding of adult clarification. This thesis looks, for the first time, descriptively, at finding ways of describing and characterising deaf children's ability to organise text, using a combination of analytical and hermeneutic methodology, and to see how that implicates defective, inadequate or poorly developed narrative skills. The narrative production and recall of 34 deaf children and 12 hearing children were recorded using a video recorder and camera and analysed for the presence of elements of Labov's model of narrative structure and for their coherence as indexed by their use of effective referent-introducing forms and recall protocols elicited in child-child interaction. The influence of medium and situation on narrative production was also studied. Significant qualitative and quantitative differences were found in narratives across hearing loss and context. Children with more useful hearing being better able to organise the semantic content of their narratives linguistically. It is suggested that children whose preferred mode of communication is sign process narrative kinesically and visually and that caution is required in making assumptions about deaf children's narratives on the basis of spoken language only. This has important implications for future research.