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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, Miako N. P. Rankin considers how ASL 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.
The Taiwanese Example
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.
A Usage-Based Approach
An Oceanic Language of Vanuatu
Spoken on Mavea Island by approximately 32 people, Mavea is an endangered Oceanic language of Vanuatu. This work provides grammatical descriptions of this hitherto undescribed language. Fourteen chapters, containing more than 1,400 examples, cover topics in the phonology and morphosyntax of Mavea, with an emphasis on the latter. Of particular interest are examples of individual speaker variation presented throughout the grammar; the presence of three linguo-labials (still used today by a single speaker) that were unexpectedly found before the rounded vowel /o/; and a chapter on numerals and the counting system, which have long been replaced by Bislama’s but are remembered by a handful of speakers.
Most of the grammatical descriptions derive from a corpus of texts of various genres (conversations, traditional stories, personal histories, etc.) gathered during the author’s fieldwork, conducted for eleven months between 2005 and 2007.
English Words for Chinese Learners
The book is written for teachers, whether training to be English teachers or taking refresher courses, postgraduate diplomas or Master's. While much of the content is applicable to all levels of learners, teachers in secondary schools and universities will find it most useful.
Shores, Beaches, and Surf Sites
In his latest book, John Clark, author of the highly regarded "Beaches of Hawaii" series, gives us the many captivating stories behind the hundreds of Hawaii place names associated with the ocean--the names of shores, beaches, and other sites where people fish, swim, dive, surf, and paddle. Significant features and landmarks on or near shores, such as fishponds, monuments, shrines, reefs, and small islands, are also included. The names of surfing sites are the most numerous and among the most colorful: from the purely descriptive (Black Rock, Blue Hole) to the humorous (No Can Tell, Pray for Sex). Clark began gathering information for the "Beaches" series in 1972, and during the years that followed interviewed hundreds of informants, many of them native Hawaiians, and consulted dozens of Hawaiian reference books, newspapers, and maps. A significant amount of the oral history he collected was unrecorded and remained only in his notebooks and memory. Hawaii Place Names: Shores, Beaches, and Surf Sites is the final result of those years of research, and like its popular predecessors, it benefits substantially from Clark's having spent a lifetime surfing and swimming Hawaii's beaches.
Hearing People in Deaf Families
The newest entry in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series explores the richness and complexity of the lives of hearing people in deaf families. Along with their own contributions, volume editors Michele Bishop and Sherry L. Hicks present the work of an extraordinary cadre of deaf, hearing, and Coda (children of deaf adults) researchers: Susan Adams, Jean Andrews, Oya Ataman, Anne E. Baker, Beppie van den Bogaerde, Helsa B. Borinstein, Karen Emmorey, Tamar H. Gollan, Mara Lúcia Masutti, Susan Mather, Ronice Müller de Quadros, Jemina Napier, Paul Preston, Jennie E. Pyers, Robin Thompson, and Andrea Wilhelm. Their findings represent research in a number of countries, including Australia, Brazil, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. HEARING, MOTHER FATHER DEAF: Hearing People in Deaf Families includes a comprehensive description of the societal influences at work in the lives of deaf people and their hearing children, which serves as a backdrop for the essays. The topics range from bimodal bilingualism in adults to cultural and linguistic behaviors of hearing children from deaf families; sign and spoken language contact phenomena; and to issues of self-expression, identity, and experience. A blend of data-based research and personal writings, the articles in this sociolinguistic study provide a thorough understanding of the varied experiences of hearing people and their deaf families throughout the world.
Sex, Race, and Faith in a College Town
It's no secret that fun is important to American college students, but it is unusual for scholars to pay attention to how undergraduates represent and reflect on their partying. Linguist and anthropologist Chaise LaDousa explores the visual manifestations of collegiate fun in a Midwestern college town where house signs on off-campus student residences are a focal point of college culture. With names like Boot 'N Rally, The Plantation, and Crib of the Rib, house signs reproduce consequential categories of gender, sexuality, race, and faith in a medium students say is benign. Through his analysis of house signs and what students say about them, LaDousa introduces the reader to key concepts and approaches in cultural analysis.
The Economics of Linguistic Diversity
In the global economy, linguistic diversity influences economic and political development as well as public policies in positive and negative ways. It leads to financial costs, communication barriers, divisions in national unity, and, in some extreme cases, conflicts and war--but it also produces benefits related to group and individual identity. What are the specific advantages and disadvantages of linguistic diversity and how does it influence social and economic progress? This book examines linguistic diversity as a global social phenomenon and considers what degree of linguistic variety might result in the greatest economic good.
Victor Ginsburgh and Shlomo Weber look at linguistic proximity between groups and between languages. They describe and use simple economic, linguistic, and statistical tools to measure diversity's impact on growth, development, trade, the quality of institutions, translation issues, voting patterns in multinational competitions, and the likelihood and intensity of civil conflicts. They address the choosing of core languages in a multilingual community, such as the European Union, and argue that although too many official languages might harm cohesiveness, efficiency, and communication, reducing their number brings about alienation and disenfranchisement of groups.
Demonstrating that the value and drawbacks of linguistic diversity are universal, How Many Languages Do We Need? suggests ways for designing appropriate linguistic policies for today's multilingual world.