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LINGUIST List 24.2970

Mon Jul 22 2013

Diss: Applied Ling, Lang Acq, Psycholing: Atkin: 'Comprehending the Nonconventional Nonsymbolic Behaviours ...'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

Date: 19-Jul-2013
From: Keith Atkin <keith_atkinhotmail.com>
Subject: Comprehending the Nonconventional Nonsymbolic Behaviours Demonstrated by Young Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD)
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Institution: Birkbeck College, University of London
Program: Applied Linguistics and Communication
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Keith Atkin

Dissertation Title: Comprehending the Nonconventional Nonsymbolic Behaviours Demonstrated by Young Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD)

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director:
Marjorie Perlman Lorch

Dissertation Abstract:

A significant barrier to a shared understanding between a young child
affected by profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and his
caregiver is the inability of the caregiver to comprehend the significance
that should be attached to the child’s behaviour. The impression presented
in much of the literature is that the behavioural repertoire of a child
affected by PMLD is idiosyncratic, inconsistent and unstable. This
dissertation questions whether such factors should necessarily prevent
communication. A new theoretical position is advanced in order to account
from an ontogenetic perspective the capacity of the child affected by PMLD
to perceive and act upon the situation that is about him. Giving rise to a
new set of assumptions, this position is empirically and objectively
examined through the findings established from the micro-level analysis of
behavioural data realised by a group of three young children affected by
PMLD and a healthy, neuro-typical infant. It is argued that when examined
with an appropriate analytical tool it is possible to identify a
substantive communicative modality particular to the child. This modality
of nonconventional nonsymbolic behaviour appears present in the data
captured across the group. It is therefore argued that the capacity of a
young child affected by PMLD to effect a communicative act may be explained
in terms of ontogenetic processes, and, furthermore, that such a modality
is in fact integral to the acquisition of communally recognised modalities.
To effect meaningful exchange, therefore, the caregiver must acquire a new
communicative repertoire: one that affords the apprehension of a
sign-referent relation that is mediated through the modality of corporeal

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