Linguistics Colloquium: Doron Levy

10/11/2020 - 14:00 - 15:30

Doron Levy, Tel Aviv University

Title: Dyslexia in Israeli Sign Language

Sign languages are natural languages that use the hands in the visuo-spatial modality. Each known "word" has a sign, and the way to sign new words and names in the spoken language (e.g., Hebrew) is (in some sign languages) by fingerspelling them (for example, spelling the name ‘Orna’ using the fingerspelled letters O-R-N-A). Fingerspelling represents the letters of the spoken language, signed one after the other by one hand.

The question we asked was whether the cognitive mechanism of reading fingerspelling is parallel to reading a written word or whether it is parallel to recognizing orally spelled letter-name strings (o-ar-en-ay).

We report on two cases of dyslexic in fingerspelling: a 19 old year congenitally deaf woman who communicates with Israeli (and Russian) Sign Language. And a second case – a 22 old year congenitally deaf man who communicates with Israeli Sign Language.

In reading written words, she showed a clear pattern of letter position dyslexia. In fingerspelling recognition she showed the exact same pattern, with letter position errors. This manifested itself in her reading the fingerspelling and then signing (with a single sign) a word that is the letter transposition result of the target word (e.g., seeing the word TIRS in Hebrew, ‘corn’, and signing the transposition counterpart ‘window shade’ (TRIS). A line of reading, naming, memory, and writing tests indicated that her deficiency was in the letter position encoding stage in the orthographic-visual-analyzer, and this affected both her fingerspelling and her written-word reading. This supports the view according to which fingerspelling "reading" is parallel to written word reading rather than to recognition of orally-spelled letter names.

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