“‘Can I sit there?’: emergent communication systems at work in a mainstream classroom with deaf students”

Event Date: 

Friday, October 25, 2019 - 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Education 1205

In Iquitos, Peru large numbers of deaf youth live without access to an established language. Their deafness and the unavailability of hearing assistive technology precludes access to spoken Spanish, and they have never been exposed to Peruvian Sign Language. In order to communicate, each deaf child uses a manual communication system which has emerged over the course of his or her lifetime, typically referred to as homesign. In this presentation, I discuss findings from my dissertation research conducting two years of ethnographic fieldwork and video recordings of naturally occurring interactions in the homes and schools of ten deaf youth without access to an established language. This methodological approach draws attention to the rich social and communicative lives of these deaf youth, illustrating how their emergent communication systems play a central role in the construction and navigation of their social worlds. This perspective is an important advancement in our understanding of the communicative lives of deaf homesigners, providing evidence that homesigns are deployed in moments of situated interaction as a combination of communicative resources and are co-constructed within the communities in which deaf youth live and interact.

Sara A. Goico is currently a University of California President’s and National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD in Anthropology in 2019 from the University of California, San Diego. Her research focuses on the organization of language and interaction in contexts with limited shared language. She primarily relies on ethnographic fieldwork combined with the microanalysis of video recordings of naturally occurring interactions. Over the last ten years, she has conducted fieldwork in Iquitos, Peru with deaf youth who have not had access to an established language. Along with her research activities, she worked with the Iquitos community to establish a deaf school that now provides these children with access to language. An ongoing research project investigates language socialization in the deaf school. While at UCLA, she is spearheading a new study with deaf preschoolers in Southern California to examine the relationship between language delay and social interaction.