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Prosodic Markers and Utterance Boundaries in American Sign Language Interpretation

Brenda Nicodemus

Publication Year: 2009

In interpreting, professionals must be able to convey to their clients the rhythm, stress, and length of phrases used by the communicating parties to indicate their respective emotional states. Such subtleties, which can signal sarcasm and irony or whether a statement is a question or a command, are defined in linguistics as prosody. Brenda Nicodemus’s new volume, the fifth in the Studies in Interpretation series, discusses the prosodic features of spoken and signed languages, and reports the findings of her groundbreaking research on prosodic markers in ASL interpretation. In her study, Nicodemus videotaped five highly skilled interpreters as they interpreted a spoken English lecture into ASL. Fifty Deaf individuals viewed the videotaped interpretations and indicated perceived boundaries in the interpreted discourse. These identified points were then examined for the presence of prosodic markers that might be responsible for the perception of a boundary. Prosodic Markers and Utterance Boundaries reports on the characteristics of the ASL markers, including their frequency, number, duration, and timing. Among other findings, the results show that interpreters produce an average of seven prosodic markers at each boundary point. The markers are produced both sequentially and simultaneously and under conditions of highly precise timing. Further, the results suggest that the type of prosodic markers used by interpreters are both systematic and stylistic.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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pp. viii

List of Figures

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pp. x-xi

List of Tables

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pp. xii-xiii

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pp. xiv

I owe a debt of gratitude to many individuals for the publication of this book. My thanks must begin with Caroline Smith, my academic advisor at the University of New Mexico, for providing enormous support in the development and completion of the study described in this book. I am also grateful to Jill Morford, Barbara Shaffer, and Elizabeth Winston, ...

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Author’s Note

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pp. xvi

This book provides the process and results of a large-scale research project on prosody and sentence boundaries in ASL interpretation, which was conducted over several years. At the conclusion of any lengthy research project, the wish is for the findings...

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1. Where the Edges Meet

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pp. 1-12

The focus of this book is “where the edges meet” in language. Specifically, it is an examination of sentence boundaries in American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and the signals that cue Deaf people to these boundary points. As Fadiman (1997) suggests, the “frictions and incongruities” at boundaries are interesting...

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2. What Is Prosody?

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pp. 13-30

A stream of language, be it spoken or signed, can be examined for its various organizational components, including such units as sounds, syllables, handshapes, movements, words, phrases, sentences, and larger discourse segments. These interacting components, or constituents, are analyzed as belonging to different linguistic...

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3. Beyond the Signs: Examining Prosody in ASL Interpretation

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pp. 31-51

The principal focus of this research project was to obtain detailed information about the type, frequency, number, duration, and timing of prosodic markers that are identified by Deaf consumers of interpreting services. Specifically, the study was designed to examine the form of prosodic boundary markers....

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4. A Closer Look: Randomization and Case Studies

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pp. 52-64

A basic assumption of this research project is that, as with spoken languages, prosodic markers in signed languages serve to segment connected discourse and, as a result, facilitate comprehension by the interlocutors. The structure and function of ASL prosodic cues have not been widely researched to date. Therefore, the...

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5. Frequency, Duration, and Number

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pp. 65-75

One of the areas investigated in this study was the frequency of occurrence of the various prosodic markers used in ASL interpretation. Knowing which markers are used most frequently may provide some insight into which markers are most effective...

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6. Timing and Type

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pp. 76-95

Timing is a significant feature of ASL because the visual modality of signed languages allows linguistic expression by means of multiple articulators, the hands, face, and body and as a result, signed language users can employ more than one articulator at a time. Because of this ability to simultaneously manipulate articulators, signed...

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7. Bringing It All Together

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pp. 96-104

This research project was a descriptive study of the nonsegmental articulations produced by five signed language interpreters during their ASL interpretations of a spoken English lecture. Specifically, this project examined non-lexical, linguistic behaviors, taken to be prosodic markers, at boundary points in the...


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pp. 105-114

Appendix A. Lecture Introduction

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pp. 115

Appendix B. Lecture

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pp. 116-121

Appendix C. Lecture Summary

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pp. 122

Appendix D. Lecture Outline

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pp. 123

Appendix E. Interpreter Consent Form

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pp. 124-126

Appendix F. Interpreter Image Consent Form

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pp. 127

Appendix G. Interpreter Information Form

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pp. 128

Appendix H. ASL Transcription of ASL Interpretation

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pp. 129-144

Appendix I. Project Directions

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pp. 145-146

Appendix J. Deaf Participant Consent Form

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pp. 147-149

Appendix K. Participant Background Information Form

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pp. 150


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pp. 151-162

E-ISBN-13: 9781563684593
E-ISBN-10: 1563684594
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563684128
Print-ISBN-10: 1563684128

Page Count: 178
Publication Year: 2009