Prosodic constituency and intonation in sign language

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In natural communication, the medium through which language is
transmitted plays an important and systematic role. Sentences are broken up
rhythmically into chunks; certain elements receive special stress; and, in spoken
language, intonational tunes are superimposed onto these chunks in particular
ways -- all resulting in an intricate system of prosody. Investigations of prosody
in Israeli Sign Language (ISL) demonstrate that sign languages have
comparable prosodic systems to those of spoken languages, although the
phonetic medium is completely different. Evidence for the prosodic word, the
phonological phrase, and the intonational phrase in ISL is examined here. New
support is offered for the claim that facial expression in sign languages
corresponds to intonation in spoken languages, and the term superarticulation is
coined to describe this system in sign languages. Interesting formal differences
between the intonational tunes of spoken language and the superarticulatory
arrays of sign language are shown to offer a new perspective on the relation
between the phonetic basis of language, its phonological organization, and its
communicative content
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-86
JournalLinguistische Berichte
StatePublished - 2005


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