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Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes

The Taiwanese Example

Jean Ann

Publication Year: 2006

In the growing body of research on sign language linguistics, one area of inquiry considers an important component of all sign languages — handshapes — and whether the use of specific kinds increase in direct relation to the ease of their formation. Author Jean Ann provides significant clarification in her book Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes: The Taiwanese Example. Ann employs a straightforward methodology in her examination of the use of Taiwan Sign Language (TSL) handshapes in five succinct chapters. In the first chapter, she discusses the two approaches linguists have taken toward understanding languages, and how these theories have influenced sign language researchers’ consideration of the ease of articulation and frequency of handshapes. In her second chapter, Ann delineates the physiology of hands and explains why certain digits move with greater dexterity than others. Ann applies this physiological information in the third chapter to construct a model for determining the ease of articulation of any logically possible handshape. She divides the handshapes into three categories, ranging from impossible to easy. In the fourth chapter, she applies her model to examine the patterns of TSL, first by describing the 56 handshapes identified in TSL, then determining how often each is used. She then compares the usage data to the handshapes’ ease of formation. The final chapter summarizes her findings and suggests implications of this work that are bound to generate further speculation and study on sign language handshapes in the future.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiii

About fifteen years ago, I read four things that rocked my world: a thenunpublished paper by David Carina and Elizabeth Sagey, Mark Mandel's dissertation, drafts...

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Chapter One. Contextualizing this Book

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pp. 1-55

In the late 1960s, a surprising claim was made: the gestures that American Deaf people use in communication with one another actually had all the properties of a language (Stokoe, Casterline, and Croneberg 1965). Part of the evidence advanced to support...

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Chapter Two. The Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Hand

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pp. 56-86

First developing an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human hand and the relevance of each to handshapes will enable the reader to follow the theory I propose with respect to ease of articulation for handshapes. Although I adhere to the standard distinction...

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Chapter Three. A Model of Ease of Handshape Articulation

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pp. 87-138

In this chapter, I construct an explicit model of handshape ease of articulation based on the physiological facts explained in chapter 2. As I will show, the model allows us to divide logically possible handshapes into three groups: easy to articulate, difficult to articulate, and physicalIy impossible to articulate...

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Chapter Four. Ease and Frequen~y Compared

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pp. 139-180

To establish a relationship between ease of articulation and frequency of occurrence, I first had to examine how frequently different handshapes occur. For this study, I used the handshapes found in Taiwan Sign Language (TSL). I calculated two types of frequency...

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pp. 181-190

This book explores the connection between ease of articulation and frequency of occurrence of handshapes in Taiwan Sign Language (TSL). Its central conclusion, based on what the evidence suggests, is that, although ease of articulation does not dictate frequency...


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pp. 191-203


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pp. 204-209

E-ISBN-13: 9781563683763
E-ISBN-10: 1563683768
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563682889
Print-ISBN-10: 1563682885

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 21 tables, 42 figures, 33 charts, 510 illustrations
Publication Year: 2006