In this study, Miako N. P. Rankin highlights the crucial interrelatedness of form and meaning at all levels in order to consider specific types of American Sign Language (ASL) expression.
The meaning of any linguistic expression resides not only in the words, but also in the ways that those words are conveyed. In her new study, Miako N. P. Rankin highlights the crucial interrelatedness of form and meaning at all levels in order to consider specific types of American Sign Language (ASL) expression. In particular, Form, Meaning, and Focus in American Sign Language considers how ASL expresses non-agent focus, similar to the meaning of passive voice in English.
Rankin’s analyses of the form-meaning correspondences of ASL expressions of non-agent focus reveals an underlying pattern that can be traced across sentence and verb types. This pattern produces meanings with various levels of focus on the agent. Rankin has determined in her meticulous study that the pattern of form-meaning characteristic of non-agent focus in ASL is used prolifically in day-to-day language. The recognition of the frequency of this pattern holds implications regarding the acquisition of ASL, the development of curricula for teaching ASL, and the analysis of ASL discourse in effective interpretation.
Miako N. P. Rankin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.
"Rankin’s study gives us a welcome look at focus variability in ASL that has not been documented previously. The questions raised will appeal both to cognitive linguists, who might pursue further analyses— Terry Janzen, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
of focus, profiling, and construal in ASL discourse, and to interpretation researchers, who strive to better understand the complex meanings that emerge from various grammatical constructions in ASL."