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October 2021

Rhythmic temporal patterns in the signing of deaf early and late learners of Swiss German sign language

Journal/Book: Lang Speech. 1999; 42: 43 Derwent Rd, Whitton Twickenham, Middlesex, England Tw2 7HQ. Kingston Press Services Ltd. 177-208.

Abstract: In a study comparing the signing of deaf early and late learners of Swiss German Sign Language, the project's deaf researchers were struck by the difference in the production of the signs by the two groups of signers. Specifically, they felt that the early learners' signing was easier to watch and to understand because it was somehow more ''rhythmic.'' In order to discover reasons for this impression, analyses were made of temporal aspects of the production of signs which might function as prosodic elements in this visual-corporal language. Two kinds of rhythmic patterning were found in the spontaneous signed narratives which formed the data of the original study. The first is temporal balancing of syntactic phrases in which the final phrase is produced with approximately the same duration as that of the preceding phrase in certain kinds of discourse. This kind of temporal balancing was found in the data of both the early and late learners of the language. The second rhythmic patterning found in this study is a regular side to side movement of the torso which phonetically marks larger chunks of some types of discourse. This marking is used consistently by the early learners but not by the late learners, who tend rather to transfer prosodic markers from their first language, German, to their sign language production.

Note: Article Braem PB, Forsch Zentrum Gebardensprache, Lerchenstr 56, CH-4059 Basel, SWITZERLAND

Keyword(s): acquisition; body movement; prosody; rhythm; Swiss German Sign Language; ACQUISITION; ENGLISH

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