Today, many deaf children can be given access to oral language thanks to a
cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a
sense of sound thanks to electric stimulation of the auditory nerve. In this
study, the acquisition of personal pronouns is considered to be a measure for
the effectiveness of cochlear implantation in congenitally deaf children.
Pronouns are morphemes with low perceptual prominence. They are
semantically complex and lack morphophonological regularity. Building on
these insights, the acquisition of pronouns is quite a challenge for hearing-
impaired children. The goal of this study is to examine whether a cochlear
implant provides deaf children with sufficient auditory input to acquire low
salient and complex functional items like personal pronouns and to compare
the results to those obtained in hearing peers. Different developmental steps
in pronoun acquisition have been examined including the building of the
pronominal paradigm and its morphological attributes and the acquisition of
co-referring and binding relations between pronouns and their antecedents.
The results show that although cochlear-implanted children start out with a
delay in the acquisition of pronouns, they are able to partially catch up with
their hearing peers during the later stages. By the age of seven, most
cochlearimplanted children have attained a target production and
comprehension of pronouns. Based on these results, cochlear implantation
below 24 months may be considered to be an effective way to provide pre-
lingual deaf children with the necessary sensory input to acquire pronouns
despite their initial deprivation of spoken language input.