Symmetry and children’s poetry in sign languages

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Within the overall framework of research into properties common to poetic forms around the world, we concentrate here on the properties of symmetry and binarity. These two aspects of structure are general enough in nature to allow us to extend poetic analysis to Sign Languages (SLs), which are distinguished by their use of the visual-gestural modality. We show, via an analysis of children’s poetry in five SLs (Blondel, 2000) and a fable in Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) (Blondel, Miller & Parisot, 2006) that the structure of poetic signed discourse is based on principles of binary rhythm and spatial symmetry. Studying these structures demonstrates the utility of the syllabic-moraic model of movement in LSQ proposed in Miller (1997) and allows us to compare the relation between the poetic text and rhythm in oral nursery rhymes on one hand and, on the other, the relation between spatial and rhythmic properties in signed performances of children’s literature.


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