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Volume Eleven: Issue Two

Winter 2011

ARTICLES
Basic Color Terms in Estonian Sign Language
Liivi Hollman and Urmas Sutrop

Abstract

New Perspectives on the History of American Sign Language
Emily Shaw and Yves Delaporte

Abstract

happen can’t hear: An Analysis of Code-Blends in Hearing Native Signers of American Sign Language
Michele Bishop

Toward a Phonetic Representation of Signs, i: Sequentiality and Contrast

Robert E. Johnson and Scott K. Liddell

Abstract

BOOK REVIEW
Signs of the time: Selected Papers from TISLR 2004, ed. Josep Quer
Petra Eccarius

Sign Bilingualism: Language Development, Interaction, and Maintenance in Sign Language Contact Situations, ed. Carolina Plaza-Pust and Esperanza Morales-López

Rachel Rosenstock
ABSTRACTS
Basic Color Terms in Estonian Sign Language

The article is written in the tradition of Brent Berlin and Paul Kay’s theory of basic color terms . According to this theory there is a universal inventory of eleven basic color categories from which the basic color terms of any given language are always drawn. The number of basic color terms varies from 2 to 11 and in a language having a fully developed color system there are eleven basic color terms: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange and gray. The studies about basic color terms in sign languages show that lexicalization of basic color terms in sign languages follows the same pattern found in spoken languages. The current study is the first close study on the color terminology in Estonian Sign Language. The survey was carried out in summer 2005 and consisted of three tasks, following Davies and Corbett’s field method: the list task, the City University color vision test and the color-naming task. Fifty ESL users from different parts of Estonia were interviewed for the study. The collected data shows that the BCT hierarchy is clearly displayed in Estonian Sign Language and it may be concluded that Estonian Sign Language is a Stage VII language and has nine basic color terms: black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, gray, brown and pink/purple.

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New Perspectives on the History of American Sign Language

Examinations of the etymology of American Sign Language have typically involved superficial analyses of signs as they exist over a short period of time. While it is widely known that ASL is related to French Sign Language, there has yet to be a comprehensive study of this historic relationship between their lexicons. This article presents preliminary results of an exhaustive study of historic documents in French Sign Language and American Sign Language, as well as fieldwork in regions in France and the United States that will ultimately culminate in a historic dictionary of American Sign Language. We present evidence of relationships in six categories and conclude that a thorough account of the history of ASL requires a systematic examination of contemporary and historic documents in both languages.

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Toward a Phonetic Representation of Signs, i: Sequentiality and Contrast

In this paper we examine the theory of the structure of signs that grew from Stokoe’s (1965) proposals. We begin by examining argument for the structural simultaneity of signs by examining claims about how signs contrast and how cheremes function. Historically, such discussions have involved three claims: (1) that signs are composed of a single handshape, a single location, and a sequence of movements, and (2) that these structural aspects account for contrast between signs in the same way that phonemes account for contrast in spoken languages, and (3) that this is evidence of dual patterning.

Using a number of different examples, we evaluate these claims from the perspective of the standard definitions of contrast and duality of pattern, showing that discussions drawn from this reasoning are not consistent with standard notions of the phoneme or of double articulation and duality of pattern. We suggest that, if signed languages in fact are structured in the way Stokoe proposed—an approach maintained even in recent work (Meir et al. 2007, 537–39)—then the phoneme and notions of duality of pattern must be redefined for signed languages.

We demonstrate, however, that the putative simultaneity proposed by this model does not adequately represent actual observations about the structure of signing and conclude that a model with inherent sequentiality of segments provides a more precise description of signs. We evaluate several such models, finding each to be inadequate, and end with the claim that an adequate descriptive system for signed languages will employ sequential segments. Such a system would be consistent with notions of contrast and duality of pattern developed for other languages.

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