Center Papers

Deaf Readers As Bilinguals: An Examination Of Deaf Readers Print Comprehension In Light Of Current Advances In Bilingualism And Second Language Processing

Piñar, P., Dussias, P. E., & Morford, J. P. (2011). Deaf readers as bilinguals: An examination of deaf readers’ print comprehension in light of current advances in bilingualism and second language processing. Language and Linguistics Compass, 5 (10), 691 – 704.

Much work has examined whether deaf and hearing individuals’ reading strategies are qualitatively different, under the assumption that such differences might account for discrepancies in levels of reading achievement (cf., Allen 1986; Gallaudet Research Institute 2005; Holt 1994; Karchmer and Mitchell 2003; Traxler 2000; Wauters et al. 2006). While generalizing over the performance of deaf readers is not trivial, the evidence seems to converge on the reader’s quality of modality-independent language experience as the best predictor for reading abilities (Mayberry et al. 2011). In order to better understand the relationship between sign literacy and written literacy, more attention needs to be devoted to the fact that most deaf readers are bilingual in a signed and a written language and that, in most cases, the written language is, effectively, their second language. The growing body of research on bilingualism and L2 processing is rapidly advancing our understanding of the architecture of the bilingual brain and of the individual factors that might affect both production and comprehension in a second language. This body of research has great potential to illuminate aspects of deaf readers’ behavior that have heretofore appeared vexing. In turn, including deaf literacy studies within the larger context of research on bilingualism will contribute to a richer picture of the bilingual experience.