The Development of Antonym Knowledge in American Sign Language (ASL) and Its Relationship to Reading Comprehension in English


At an early age, antonyms are part of a child’s lexicon. Antonyms represent a strong case of the principle of lexical contrast (Clark, 1987), which proposes that any new word that is acquired must contrast in meaning with other words. The acquisition of antonyms requires knowledge of relationships among words and thus has been fruitfully used as an indicator of both breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge (Paul & O’Rourke, 1988). Thus, the study of antonyms is a useful tool to learn about aspects of vocabulary knowledge beyond vocabulary size. Vocabulary knowledge in general positively relates to reading comprehension (e.g., Baumann, Edwards, Boland, Olejnik, & Kame‘enui, 2003; Davis,1942; Ouellette, 2006). In recent years it has been shown that vocabulary knowledge in the first language (L1) also supports reading comprehension in the second language (L2) for spoken languages (e.g., de Villiers & Masek, 2013; Lindsey, Manis, & Bailey, 2003; Miller et al., 2006; Proctor, August,

Carlo, & Snow, 2006). For example, Proctor et al. (2006) tested 135 bilinguals Spanish–English students. They showed that when controlling for the language of instruction (English versus Spanish), English decoding skill, and English oral language proficiency (all effects of L2 proficiency), the effect of vocabulary knowledge in Spanish (L1), as measured by the Woodcock Picture Vocabulary test (Woodcock & Munoz-Sandoval, 1995), was significant. These results are important for the current study as the authors compared vocabulary knowledge with other variables: Spanish language alphabetic knowledge, fluency, and listening comprehension on the performance of English reading comprehension