Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
J. Albert Bickford
This study focuses on the communication strategies used by second language learners of Romanian Sign Language (LSR), including learners of different proficiency levels, and investigates whether the learner’s proficiency level affects the kinds or variety of communication strategies they use. Unlike previous studies of communication strategies by language learners, it focuses on learners of a signed rather than a spoken language.
The study consisted of two tasks—the first being a structured task where the learner was given a list of ten words to communicate to an interlocutor (a Deaf native signer). The second task was less structured and asked the learner to describe a video to the interlocutor.
The study finds that learners choose their communication strategies by thinking about the knowledge they share with the interlocutor and then making conscious decisions about the most effective strategies to use with that particular person. This is not necessarily a function of their proficiency in the language. In fact, unlike findings from previous studies, beginning learners in the present study used more LSR-based strategies than the advanced learners, which can be explained by the fact that their language background did not happen to overlap as much with that of the interlocutor. In interviews, learners stated that they chose certain strategies because they knew they would be more familiar to the interlocutor. These statements show that the learners are not solely at the mercy of their proficiency level in the language but can use their knowledge of the interlocutor and the situation in order to communicate. The study also showed that more advanced learners tended to use more variety in their choice of communication strategies.
This study also found that it is not necessarily helpful to analyze communication strategies in terms of L1 vs. L2 strategies. It would be more helpful to think of all of the different languages that are available to the learners, since these are the choices that the learners are thinking through when they are talking to the interlocutor. The learner may use their L1 more often if the interlocutor also knows that language, and less often if their L1 is not known to the interlocutor.
Melville, Rebecca, "Using context to communicate: Romanian Sign Language learners and their communication strategies" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 2573.