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Title: Handedness and cerebral lateralisation : looking at signing, fingerspelling and gesture skills in deaf signers and signers with stroke in British Sign Language (BSL)
Author: Sharma, S. D.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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Sign languages offer a unique perspective for understanding the relation between handedness and cerebral lateralisation for language, since in sign language the hands themselves are the articulators. Signers display evidence of hand dominance while signing and fingerspelling. In one-handed signs and one-handed fingerspelling, the dominant hand is predominantly used. In two-handed signs and two-handed fingerspelling, the dominant hand is the active articulator with the non-dominant hand acting as the base. Past studies of handedness in the deaf population have reported a lower prevalence of right-handedness than in the population generally. These studies however have investigated mostly non-linguistic and non-communicative tasks such as throwing a ball, using a hammer etc. The present study looks at handedness patterns for linguistic and communicative tasks such as signing and fingerspelling, and non-linguistic communicative use of the hands such as gesture. The main research questions are: What is the handedness distribution for signing and fingerspelling within the BSL using population? Is this distribution similar to that of the hearing population? What are the handedness patterns for linguistic and non-linguistic tasks within right and left-handed signers? How are these patterns affected, if at all, under experimental conditions? What is the effect on handedness in relation to linguistic and motoric impairments caused by stroke in Deaf people? The study is in three parts: the first provides handedness statistics drawn from observation and reported signing hand preference in Deaf users of British Sign Language (BSL) as well as for tool use. A new questionnaire suitable for use with signers (the BSL Handedness Screen) was developed. In contrast to previous studies, this study did not find a higher prevalence of non-right handedness in the signing population. Parts 2 and 3 explore dominance switching in an experimental study by impeding or preventing use of the dominant or non-dominant hand (Part 2), and comparing errors and compensatory mechanisms with those found in RH and LH signers following stroke (Part 3). Differences between signing, fingerspelling and gesture are found in dominance switching. Possible motoric and linguistic explanations are explored and implications for therapy are also discussed. The hand as linguistic articulator offers a route to addressing questions about the interplay of linguistic and motoric skills and underpinning neural mechanisms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available