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Non-Linguistic Cognitive Effects of Learning American Sign Language as a Second Language

Vercellotti, Mary Lou (2008) Non-Linguistic Cognitive Effects of Learning American Sign Language as a Second Language. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This thesis reports the findings of four non-linguistic experiments with participants from three second language learning groups, students in second semester American Sign Language (ASL2), in fourth semester ASL (ASL4), and students learning Spanish as a point of comparison. These experiments provide evidence that the spatial-visual modality of ASL impacts the effects of language learning. Participants completed two face-processing tasks, the Benton Facial Recognition Test (BFRT) and the Mooney Faces Closure Test (MFCT), and two spatial relations tasks, a Mirror Reversal/Mental Rotation test (MR) and the Differential Aptitude Test-Space Relations (SR). Previous research has found deaf native signers have increased facial recognition skills (McCullough & Emmorey, 1997; Bettger et al., 1997) and that hearing signers have increased face-processing skills (Arnold & Murray, 1998). Deaf late learners of ASL and hearing signers outperformed hearing non-signers on the BFRT (Bettger et al., 1997). However, on the MFCT, signers showed a slight disadvantage (McCullough & Emmorey, 1997). Existing research finds native signers have increased skills on mirror reversal tasks (Masataka, 1995) and mental rotation tasks (Emmorey, Kosslyn, & Bellugi, 1993). Some research has found that hearing ASL L2 participants outperform new ASL L2 participants and non-signers (Talbot & Haude, 1993). Research results are inconsistent about non-linguistic signing advantages. Research on ASL as an L2 is limited. This paper adjoins non-linguistic task results and begins to address when in the L2 progression effects are found. Participants' scores on these four tests were analyzed using a series of one-way ANOVAs. When the language group was a significant (p<.05) factor, a post-hoc (Tukey's HSD) analysis determined which language groups significantly differed. ASL2 and ASL4 scores on the MR task were significantly different from the Spanish group. Moreover, Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test confirmed significant, but not consistent, differences in accuracy between same and reversed test items in the higher rotation categories for each language group. These results suggest that mirror reversal and mental rotation may be separate skills that are both correlated with signing. Results also indicate that ASL may serve as spatial relations training, supporting a psycho-social response for gender differences on spatial relation tasks.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Vercellotti, Mary Loumlv9@pitt.eduMLV9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMauk, Claude Ecemauk@pitt.eduCEMAUK
Committee MemberTokowicz, Natashatokowicz@pitt.eduTOKOWICZ
Committee MemberShirai, Yasuhiroyshirai@pitt.eduYSHIRAI
Date: 16 January 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 November 2007
Approval Date: 16 January 2008
Submission Date: 7 December 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American Sign Language; Face Processing; Mirror Reversal; Second Language Learning; Spatial Relations
Other ID:, etd-12072007-112938
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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