UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Spoken language development in EAL deaf children


Therapist researchers:Merle Mahon (Developmental Science Research Department, UCL)
FunderDepartment of Health

This longitudinal study investigated the development of spoken English in three to five year-old prelingually deaf children from hearing families, in interactions with their teachers. These children use digital hearing aids or have cochlear implants. Their communication modality is mainly spoken language and they attend a unit for hearing impaired children within a mainstream, inner London primary school.
Data was collected over three years from 27 children (11 deaf EAL children; 10 deaf children from homes where English is the first language. Conversation Analytic procedures were used to examine the data in detail. Findings indicate that teachers do not display any overt orientation to the deaf children’s EAL status in their interactions. At this early stage their interactions are designed to facilitate the deaf child in combining semantic referents in their turns, similar to interactions with younger typically developing children acquiring their first language. The use of co-speech gestures by both child and teacher was crucial to the process of transition from single to multi-word speech.


Mahon, M. (in press) The emergence of multi-word turns in English in interactions between a deaf child and his specialist teacher (Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics)

Radford, J. and Mahon, M. (in press) Establishing co-participation in storybook sharing through gaze and gesture. In Gardner, H. and Forrester, M. (Eds) Analysing Interactions in Childhood: methods and applications.