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Volume Twelve: Issue Two

Winter 2012

ARTICLES
No Dummies: Deafness, Baseball, and American Culture
R. A. R. Edwards

Abstract

Shared Thinking Processes with Four Deaf Poets: A Window on “the Creative” in “Creative Sign Language”
Donna West and Rachel Sutton-Spence

Abstract

ASL Discourse Strategies: Chaining and Connecting: Explaining across Audiences
David Quinto-Pozos and Wanette Reynolds

Abstract

Dictionaries of African Sign Languages: An Overview
Constanze H. Schmaling

Abstract

Prosodic Correlates of Sentences in Signed Languages: A Literature Review and Suggestions for New Types of Studies
Ellen Ormel and Onno Crasborn

Abstract

Toward a Phonetic Representation of Hand Configuration: The Thumb
Robert E. Johnson and Scott K. Liddell

Abstract

BOOK REVIEW
Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages by Timothy G. Reagan
Verena Krausneker
ABSTRACTS
No Dummies: Deafness, Baseball, and American Culture

This article begins by examining the historical and social factors that led to 1901 being the “deafest” year in major league baseball history with four deaf players. In particular, the author discusses the career of William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy, a deaf man from Ohio who became the most celebrated deaf player in history and explores the reasons why he is not more celebrated in the mainstream culture.

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Shared Thinking Processes with Four Deaf Poets: A Window on “the Creative” in “Creative Sign Language”

This article discusses a new way of thinking about analyzing sign-language poetry. Rather than merely focusing on the product, the method involves observing the process of its creation. Recent years have witnessed increasing literary and linguistic analysis of sign-language poetry, with commentaries on texts and performances being set within and drawing on a range of disciplines and analytical techniques. However, attention has so far been paid to the texts and performances rather than to the process of their creation. While working with four of the UK’s most prolific sign-language poets, exploring and trying to understand more about British Sign Language (BSL) poetry, we became increasingly interested in the creative processes that occur and emerge in the composition itself. We decided to give them a task related to creative anthropomorphism and asked them to think “out loud” about the process as they created their compositions.

We took our lead from think-aloud protocols, which have been used extensively in studies of cognitive processes and knowledge acquisition to understand how we solve problems (van Someren, Barnard, and Sandberg 1994; Tirkkonen-Condit and Jääskeläinen 2000; Stone 2009). We invited the poets to reflect upon and share with each other how they tackle a particular challenging aspect that is often incorporated in sign-language poems. This shared thinking process enabled them to explore anthropomorphic concepts together and jointly to create poetic examples, while also giving us insight into the processes of task completion (rather than only its final product).

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ASL Discourse Strategies: Chaining and Connecting: Explaining across Audiences

This study takes advantage of a novel methodology—the use of a single culturally-meaningful text written in English and presented to different audiences in ASL—to examine the ways in which Deaf native signers utilize contextualization strategies in order to match the perceived linguistic and informational needs of an audience. We demonstrate, through close examination of the ASL text in comparison with the English source text, that signers use contextualization techniques (Gumper, 1982), which are discourse strategies that support the construction of meaning. We suggest that two strategies for supporting communication in ASL could be labeled contextualization cues: chaining (Humphries and MacDougall 1999/2000) and what we refer to as connecting-explaining. Both contextualization strategies appear throughout all of the ASL texts, though connecting-explaining is much more prevalent; it appears, on average, once every ten seconds with most audiences. This study of contextualization contributes to our knowledge of ASL discourse strategies and has implications for various professionals, including educators of Deaf children, signed-language linguists, signed-language interpreters, and interpreting educators.

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Dictionaries of African Sign Languages: An Overview

This article gives an overview of dictionaries of African sign languages that have been published to date most of which have not been widely distributed. After an introduction into the field of sign language lexicography and a discussion of some of the obstacles that authors of sign language dictionaries face in general, I will show problems related to sign language dictionary making in Africa in particular. In the main part of this article I show who produced these dictionaries, why and for whom they were produced, how data was collected, and I compare their content and their structures.

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Prosodic Correlates of Sentences in Signed Languages: A Literature Review and Suggestions for New Types of Studies

This article contains a literature review of evidence of large prosodic domains that correspond to syntactic units such as a clause or a sentence. In particular, different phonetic nonmanual cues that may relate to clause or sentence boundaries are discussed in detail. On the basis of various ideas and views in the literature, we also describe two types of studies that may further our understanding of prosodic domains and their relation to sentence boundaries. The first type is a refinement of a recent series of perception studies in which signers’ intuitions are elicited on break points in stretches of discourse. The second-type exploits new visual signal-processing techniques to detect salient events in a video recording of signing. The article concludes with a discussion of how knowledge of the prosody of signed languages can be employed for language technology.

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Toward a Phonetic Representation of Hand Configuration: The Thumb

In this article, we present a system for the representation of the configurations of the thumb in the hand configurations of signed languages and for the interactions of the thumb with the four fingers proper. The configuration of the thumb is described as a componential combination of the descriptions of thumb opposition, abduction of the CM joint, and extension of the MCP and DIP joints. Interaction with the other fingers is described as a relationship between specific surfaces of the thumb and specific surfaces of the fingers involved.

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