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Sign Language & Linguistics

image of Sign Language & Linguistics
ISSN 1387-9316
E-ISSN 1569-996X

Sign Language & Linguistics is a peer-reviewed, international journal which aims to increase our understanding of language by providing an academic forum for researchers to discuss sign languages in the larger context of natural language, crosslinguistically and crossmodally. SLL presents studies that apply existing theoretical insights to sign language in order to further our understanding of SL; it investigates and expands our knowledge of grammar based on the study of SL and it specifically addresses the effect of modality (signed vs. spoken) on the structure of grammar.

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  • On Defining Lexeme in a Signed Language
    • Authors: Trevor Johnston, and Adam C. Schembri
    • Source: Sign Language & Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 2, 1999, pages: 115 –185
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    • In this paper we attempt to define the notion of ‘lexeme’ in relation to signed languages. We begin by defining signs as a distinct kind of visual-gestural communicative act, different from other communicative uses of gesture. This is followed by a discussion of the most important categories of productive forms in signed languages, referred to simply as signs. The close relationship between the formational aspects of these signs and their meaning is also discussed and exemplified. We then describe the criteria for recognizing lexemes as a subset of signs, and distinguishing variant and modified forms. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications the notion of lexeme has for our understanding of the lexicon of signed languages and for signed language lexicography.
  • Syntactic Correlates of Brow Raise in ASL
    • Authors: Ronnie B. Wilbur, and Cynthia Patschke
    • Source: Sign Language & Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1999, pages: 3 –41
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    • Previous approaches to explaining brow raise behavior in American Sign Language (ASL) have claimed that it performs a semantic or pragmatic function, such as indicating that information is presupposed, given, or otherwise not asserted. However we show that this explanation cannot be extended to all the data. The commonality among all the structures that have ‘br’ marking is that the ‘br’ shows up in A'-positions associated with [-wh] operator features. These operators are semantically restrictive. Furthermore, the domain of ‘br’ spreading is the checking domain of the [-wh] feature, in contrast with c-command domain associated with [+wh] and [+neg] features. The three distinctive ASL brow positions, raised, furrowed, and neutral, are each associated with a different operator situation, [-wh], [+wh], and none, respectively. In sum, ‘br’-marking is clearly associated with syntactic structures that are related only indirectly with specific semantic, pragmatic, or discourse factors.
  • The Medium and the Message: Prosodic Interpretation of Linguistic Content in Israeli Sign Language
    • Author: Wendy Sandler
    • Source: Sign Language & Linguistics, Volume 2, Issue 2, 1999, pages: 187 –215
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    • In natural communication, the medium through which language is transmitted plays an important and systematic role. Sentences are broken up rhythmically into chunks; certain elements receive special stress; and, in spoken language, intonational tunes are superimposed onto these chunks in particular ways — all resulting in an intricate system of prosody. Investigations of prosody in Israeli Sign Language demonstrate that sign languages have comparable prosodic systems to those of spoken languages, although the phonetic medium is completely different. Evidence for the prosodic word and for the phonological phrase in ISL is examined here within the context of the relationship between the medium and the message. New evidence is offered to support the claim that facial expression in sign languages corresponds to intonation in spoken languages, and the term “superarticulation” is coined to describe this system in sign languages. Interesting formaldiffer ences between the intonationaltunes of spoken language and the “superarticulatory arrays” of sign language are shown to offer a new perspective on the relation between the phonetic basis of language, its phonological organization, and its communicative content.
  • The ASL lexicon
    • Author: Carol A. Padden
    • Source: Sign Language & Linguistics, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998, pages: 39 –60
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    • This paper explores a range of Foreign vocabulary in American Sign Language and demonstrates that there are ways of accounting for them without undermining the fundamental independence of a natural sign language. Arguments are made for a unified lexicon in which Native and Foreign vocabulary are arranged schematically as extending from a core to a periphery with gradations of conformity to phonological constraints on ASL forms. At the conclusion of the paper there is a brief review of issues concerning the presence of Foreign vocabulary in natural sign languages.
  • Frequency distribution and spreading behavior of different types of mouth actions in three sign languages
    • Authors: Onno A. Crasborn, Els van der Kooij, Dafydd Waters, Bencie Woll, and Johanna Mesch
    • Source: Sign Language & Linguistics, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2008, pages: 45 –67
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    • In this paper, we present a comparative study of mouth actions in three European sign languages: British Sign Language (BSL), Nederlandse Gebarentaal (Sign Language of the Netherlands, NGT), and Swedish Sign Language (SSL). We propose a typology for, and report the frequency distribution of, the different types of mouth actions observed. In accordance with previous studies, we find the three languages remarkably similar — both in the types of mouth actions they use, and in how these mouth actions are distributed. We then describe how mouth actions can extend over more than one manual sign. This spreading of mouth actions is the primary focus of this paper. Based on an analysis of comparable narrative material in the three languages, we demonstrate that the direction as well as the source and goal of spreading may be language-specific.
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