American Sign Language grammar

American Sign Language Grammar

American Sign Language grammar

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Description:
The grammar of American Sign Language (ASL) is the best studied of any sign language, though research is still in its infancy, dating back only to William Stokoe in the 1960s. Stokoe was the first linguist to approach any sign language as a full natural language with its own grammar, an approach which is now accepted practice for all Deaf sign languages. Stokoe's phonological model, for example, has been successfully applied to several other sign languages, such as British Sign Language, which is not closely related to ASL.

Phonology

Stokoe concentrated primarily on establishing the phonology of ASL, calling the building blocks of signs 'cheremes', from the Greek cheir- 'hand', by analogy with the phonemes and tonemes of oral languages. However, it has since been recognized that these are cognitively equivalent, and linguists since Stokoe's time have used the terms 'phoneme' and 'phonology' for all languages, oral and sign. All of these linguists divided ASL signs into several phonemic features: hand shape, palm orientation, hand movement, hand location, as well as non-manual features such as facial expression, posture, and mouthing. In early theoretical approaches, movement was treated as simultaneous or sequential motions of the hand, on par with other features; while in many more recent approaches, movement is treated as the tempo of the language rather than as a feature per se: Signs are divided into segments of movement and hold, each of which consists of a set of the...
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