Investigating the Effects of Mouthing and Hand Placement on Fingerspelling Accuracy in Deaf Adults
Forty-four D/deaf adults having completed or currently pursuing a post-secondary degree participated in a fingerspelling test of decoding-encoding pseudowords presented by a model with and without mouthings and in two hand positions. They also demonstrated their speechreading skills in three speechreading assessments. Participants offered self-reported demographic information including parent hearing status, age at initial American Sign Language (ASL) exposure, school setting prior to college, highest achieved academic level, and perceived competency with decoding and encoding fingerspelling. Video-recorded fingerspelling responses indicated no significant primary effect of mouthings or hand position on fingerspelling accuracy. Self-reported measures of competency with fingerspelling (both decoding and encoding) were significant predictors for accuracy on the fingerspelling test. The speechreading spondees test was the only speechreading assessment that predicted performance on the fingerspelling test, and school setting prior to college predicted speechreading scores on the Build-A-Sentence test only. Speechreading scores were otherwise unaffected by school setting, parent hearing status, education level, and age at ASL exposure. Post-hoc grouping of participants revealed increased accuracy by participants with early ASL exposure (p=.000; ηp2=0.45), and with both D/deaf parents (p=.002; ηp2=0.23). Individuals having attended D/deaf schools prior to college entry performed significantly better on the fingerspelling test than those reporting mainstream schooling (p=.007; ηp2=0.22). Analysis of participant mouthings during re-encoding on the fingerspelling test supported previously reported use of mouthings and mouth gestures, and identified a novel finding, which we termed alphabetic recoding. Development and refinement of a fingerspelling test offers benefit to professionals working with D/deaf and hearing children and their D/deaf or hearing parents. Continued exploration of the variety of mouthings produced during ASL and fingerspelling, including a closer look at alphabetic recoding, should provide added support for phonological mechanisms driving language developmental processes in D/deaf bimodal-bilinguals.