LANGUAGE AND COGNITION: THE RELATION OF LINGUISTIC ABILITY TO PERFORMANCE OF A COGNITIVE TASK IN DEAF CHILDREN

PEGGY EAGNEY, Fordham University

Abstract

The question of the relation of language to thinking has long been debated. Piaget has claimed that, although language is important in extending cognitive structures, it is not essential for their development. Bruner, on the other hand, argues that language enables the development of cognitive structures that would not otherwise be possible. Furth purported to support Piaget's position with evidence that linguistically deficient deaf persons achieve normal cognitive development. Recent linguistic research, however, shows that American Sign Language, in which most deaf adults are proficient, is not "broken English" as was long believed, but a distinct language with unique syntactic structures. Research has also shown that deaf persons increase their mastery of English as they grow older. Such studies show that a unitary linguistic deficiency among the deaf cannot be assumed.^ The present study attemped to use the range of linguistic skill among deaf children to show the relation of language to cognitive development. If children with better language skills were also more advanced cognitively, it would support the position that language facilitates cognitive growth. A sample of 70 deaf children was tested for linguistic ability, intellectual ability, and cognitive performance. A multiple regression analysis was performed with performance on a cognitive task as the dependent variable, and linguistic ability, intellectual ability, and age as the independent variables. It was hypothesized that, while intellectual ability and age would account for more of the variance on the cognitive task than linguistic ability, linguistic ability would add significantly to the prediction. The analysis showed that intellectual ability was the only significant contributor to variance on the cognitive task. Because of the high correlation between linguistic ability and intellectual ability, it was concluded that enough of linguistic ability was accounted for by intellectual ability to prevent linguistic ability from contributing significantly to variance on the cognitive task. ^

Subject Area

Experimental psychology

Recommended Citation

EAGNEY, PEGGY, "LANGUAGE AND COGNITION: THE RELATION OF LINGUISTIC ABILITY TO PERFORMANCE OF A COGNITIVE TASK IN DEAF CHILDREN" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8326169.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8326169

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