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Language development in a bimodal bilingual child with cochlear implant: A longitudinal study*


To address the negative effects of deafness on spoken language acquisition, many clinicians suggest using cochlear implant (CI) and oral education and advise against sign language, even when combined with spoken language (i.e., bilingualism), believing that it may slow down spoken language development. In a deaf child with CI who was exposed at an early age to Italian Sign Language and spoken Italian, we evaluated language development and the relationship between the two languages. The number of words/signs produced by the child consistently increased with age, and the vocabulary growth rate in spoken Italian was equivalent to that of hearing peers. Before CI, the child relied almost exclusively on sign language; after CI, he gradually shifted to spoken Italian yet still used sign language when unable to retrieve words in spoken Italian. We conclude that bimodal bilingualism may scaffold the development of spoken language also in deaf children with CI.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Pasquale Rinaldi, National Research Council, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Via Nomentana, 56, 00161 Rome, Italy
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This work was supported by the Nando Peretti Foundation (2012/34 to Maria Cristina Caselli) and by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency – EACEA (543264-LLP-1-2013-1-IT-KA2-KA2MP “SignMET” to Pasquale Rinaldi). We wish to thank Alessio Di Renzo for his help in collecting data, Concetta D'Amico and Susan Di Gianfelice for their help with transcribing data, and Piera Massoni for her helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper. We also wish to thank Mark Kanieff for his insightful comments and for the revision of English. Last, but not least, we are very grateful to the child who participated in this study and to his family, for the time and effort that they spent in allowing us to collect the data. The authors have no conflicts of interest. The authors are grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from three anonymous Bilingualism: Language and Cognition reviewers.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
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