Verbal Construction in Narratives Produced by Deaf Students Who use Chilean Sign Language

  • Fabiola Andrea Otárola-Cornejo Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
  • Andrea Pérez-Cuello Unidad de Educación Especial - Ministerio de Educación
  • Natalia Ortiz-Navarrete Colegio Santiago Apóstol
  • Martin Álvarez-Cruz
Keywords: verbs, Chilean Sign Language, language immersion, deaf, lexical verb forms


Chilean Sign Language, like other visual and spatial languages, is a natural language which develops within Deaf communities, which is an aspect recognized but not always included in linguistic descriptive studies. Including signing participants of the same age but different linguistic development and language system description in isolated tasks of natural language use might lead to misinterpretations when describing sign languages. Consequently, this research had the objective of describing the lexical verb forms discourse and grammatical resources in personal experience narratives signed by users of Chilean Sign Language. In order to achieve that, the research used a predominantly qualitative method, opting for data collection in ecologically valid settings and a cross-sectional, descriptive design. The linguistic corpus was comprised of 42 narrative texts produced by 14 Deaf students with different years of language immersion. 1052 lexical verb forms were identified, with Plain verbs as the most frequent verb type and Spatial verbs as the least frequent ones. It was observed that students with more years of linguistic experience use more verb forms and even more if they are also students of more advanced school years. These results suggest that longer language immersion in sign languages might mean a better psycho-linguistic performance of Deaf students, with the consequent social and educational implications for their development. Additionally, this study contributes to the description of Chilean Sign Language and to proposing the first guidelines for researching its acquisition and development. Moreover, we believe our findings can enrich the educational processes of Deaf people, their teachers and other professionals working in educational settings.

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Author Biographies

Fabiola Andrea Otárola-Cornejo, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

Doctora en Lingüística y Licenciada en Educación, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. Investigadora posdoctoral del Centro de Investigación para la Educación Inclusiva, Campus Sausalito, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Chile.

Andrea Pérez-Cuello, Unidad de Educación Especial - Ministerio de Educación

Máster en Integración de Personas con Discapacidad, Universidad de Salamanca, España, y profesora de sordos, Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, Región Metropolitana, Chile. Estudiante de Magíster en Lingüística, Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

Natalia Ortiz-Navarrete, Colegio Santiago Apóstol

Profesora de sordos e intérprete de lengua de señas chilena, Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, Chile. Estudiante de Magíster en Lingüística Aplicada, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

Martin Álvarez-Cruz

Estudiante de Magíster en Letras, mención Lingüística, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile. Traductor inglés-español


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How to Cite
Otárola-Cornejo, F. A., Pérez-Cuello, A., Ortiz-Navarrete, N., & Álvarez-Cruz, M. (2020). Verbal Construction in Narratives Produced by Deaf Students Who use Chilean Sign Language. Íkala, 25(2), 395-416.
Empirical Studies