Gallaudet University Press

13:10 Monday, October 24, 2011

The Gift and Curse of Discourse

A New Volume Showcases Recent Approaches to Discourse Studies in American Sign Language

“What is discourse,” asks Cynthia B. Roy, editor of Discourse in Signed Languages. “Discourse is a human gift and a human curse. It is a constant linguistic activity between people and, simultaneously, a constant process in understanding. Discourse surrounds us, describing scenes, identifying cues, explaining boundaries, defining terms, and making us laugh or making us sad. Whatever we are doing, we are always creating and interpreting discourse, creating and interpreting meaning.” Conversely, what is meant in the academic sense by discourse can be a complicated and lengthy explanation.

This new volume, the seventeenth in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series, presents a stellar, international cast of cognitive linguists, sociolinguists, and discourse analysts to discover and demonstrate how sign language users make sense of what is going on within their social and cultural contexts in face-to-face interactions. Divided into four parts, the authors demonstrate how meaning is composed and interpreted across depiction, dialogue, and action, from within metaphor, through reference and discourse markers, within register, and within a heretofore unstudied signed language. Although all the contributors are linguists, this collection represents a new collaboration of converging perspectives. “The major thread that ties us together,” Roy notes, “is our focus on language in use — the forms and functions of signed languages used by people in actual situations and how thoughts expressed in one setting with one term or one utterance may mean something totally different when expressed in a different setting with different participants and different purposes.”

Read chapter three, “The Discourse and Politeness Functions of hey and well in American Sign Language,” and view the table of contents online. Use your exclusive subscriber discount and save 20% off the regular price when you order Discourse in Signed Languages online or by mail. For online orders, type “OCT2011” in the box labeled “use promo code” next to the checkout button.

“Sue Livingston created an engaging instructional handbook that aims to make teaching English simple and less complicated,” writes a Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education reviewer about Working Text: Teaching Deaf and Second-Language Students to Be Better Writers. “[She] understands the unique needs of deaf students, and her handbook serves its purpose. Her handbook, workbook, and CD are carefully planned and include culturally relevant literature. She covers topics and units that make it a valuable teaching tool not only for deaf students but also for anyone learning the English language.” Additionally, CHOICE magazine had this to say about the new teacher’s guide and student workbook duo: “Livingston, who teaches writing to Deaf students, distills her experience in this book and accompanying student CD workbook. Central to her method of teaching are 20 ‘X words’ that appear again and again in writing: the ‘do,’ ‘have,’ ‘be’ and modal (e.g., ‘will,’ ‘can,’ ‘shall’) families that students need to learn how to use and on which her workbook focuses. Summing Up: Recommended.” Review the table of contents and read chapter one now, and order both the Working Text teacher’s guide and the Working Text student workbook today.

In Primary Movement in Sign Languages: A Study of Six Languages, authors Donna Jo Napoli, Mark Mai, and Nicholas Gaw describe how they created a new way to categorize sign languages by direction of movement, thereby establishing the relationship between six distinct sign languages without depending on grammar. The Midwest Book Review recognizes this new study in its current issue, stating: “Sign language, like verbal language, has many diversions of culture and of dialect. Primary Movement in Sign Languages is a scholarly study of the roots of language and study from Donna Jo Napoli, Nicholas Gaw, and Mark Mai. Even within cultures bound by the spoken English language, American, British, and Australian sign languages have differing gestures. Looking for the root movements of sign language to understand a basis of the many types of signing, and comparing how they take hold in newly emerging versions of sign language, Primary Movement in Sign Languages proves to be an intriguing study of the linguistics of signing.” You can read more in the introduction. Order Primary Movement in Sign Languages now.

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