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Sign Language

Major Question

How does the syntax of signed language and spoken language compare; especially in the case of determiners and how the frequency of which they are used?

What is Sign Language?

The exact beginnings of ASL are not clear. Many believe that ASL came from french sign language. In sign language, the visual component of sight is manipulated through its unique features. Due to this novel feature, a whole scene can be visually comprehended at once, compared to the linear qualities of oral language which can only interpret one sound at a time.

Common linguistic features of deaf sign languages are extensive use of classifiers, a high degree of inflection, and a topic-comment syntax. Many unique linguistic features emerge from sign languages' ability to produce meaning in different parts of the visual field simultaneously. For example, the recipient of a signed message can read meanings carried by the hands, the facial expression and the body posture simultaneously. This is different from oral languages, because the sounds that compose words are mostly sequential, where tone is an exception.

10 things you should know about ASL!

Grammar of Sign Language

Every language, whether it is for signing or speaking, has it's own set of rules. These rules are called grammar. American sign language has it's own set of rules, not only for grammar, but for phonology, morphology, syntax and pragmatics as well.

Phonology of Sign Language

Syntax of Sign Language

Morphology of Sign Language

Major Theories of Sign Language

Although most people would think that American sign language and spoken American English would be very similar, overall, oral language and signed language are completely independent of each other and are even developmentally different. It had been found that the grammars of sign language and spoken language from the same area do not resemble each other in terms of syntax. In sign language the visual component of sight is manipulated through its unique features. Due to this novel feature, a whole scene can be visually comprehended and understood at once, compared to the linear qualities of oral language which only interpret one sound at a time. Common linguistic features of deaf sign languages are extensive use of classifiers, a high degree of inflection, and a topic-comment syntax. Many unique linguistic features emerge from sign languages’ ability to produce meaning in different parts of the visual field simultaneously. One example of this is how the recipient of a signed message can read meanings carried by the hands, the facial expressions, and the body posture simultaneously. This is different from oral languages, because the sounds that compose words are mostly sequential, where tone is an exception. Sign languages have a higher non-sequential component, with many “phonemes” produced simultaneously. Traditional writing systems are not designed to deal with this level of complexity. For example, signs may involve fingers, hands, and face moving simultaneously, or the two hands moving in different directions.

Sign Language vs. Spoken Language

Overall, oral language and signed language are independent of each other and are developmentally different. The grammars of signed language and spoken language, from the same area, do not resemble each other in terms of syntax. For example, the syntax of American sign language has more in common with the spoken Japanese language.

Instructional Videos

Additional Research

Group Members

Sources

Fundamental and gradient differences in language development. Herschensohn, Julia Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2009, pp. 259-289.

Psycholinguistics 101. Cowles, HWind(1) ISBN: 9780826115614, 2011

Why Don't You See What I Mean? Prospects and Limitations of Current Automatic Sign Recognition Research. Ten Holt, Gineke Sign Language Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2006, pp. 416-437.

Language acquisition meets language evolution. Chater, Nick Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, Vol. 34, No. 7, 2010, pp. 1131-1157.

Implicit sequence learning in deaf children with cochlear implants. Conway, Christopher M Developmental Science, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2011, pp. 69-82.

Negation, questions, and structure building in a homesign system. Franklin, Amy Cognition, Vol. 118, No. 1, 2011, pp. 1-19.

http://www.handspeak.com/byte/s/index.php?byte=syntax

http://www.handspeak.com/byte/p/index.php?byte=phonology

http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/grammar.htm

http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/topics/linguistics2.htm

http://www.deaflibrary.org/asl.html

http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam034/2002074189.pdf

http://www.signgenius.com/american-sign-language/american-language-sign.shtml