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Hardcover | $14.75 Short | £12.95 | 396 pp. | 6.3 x 9 in | February 1999 | ISBN: 9780262024457
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A Prosodic Model of Sign Language Phonology


This book is intended in part to provide linguists and cognitive scientists who do not know sign language with a point of entry into the study of sign language phonology. At the same time, it presents a comprehensive theory of American Sign Language (ASL) phonology, while reviewing and building on alternative theories. One claim of this theoretical framework is that, because of sign language's visual/gestural phonetic basis, the consonant-like units and vowel-like units are expressed simultaneously with one another, rather than sequentially as in spoken languages. A second claim is that movements operate as the most basic prosodic units of the language. The author is concerned to show both the similarities and differences between signed and spoken languages, and to indicate some directions for future work in cognitive science that can be derived from her phonological model.


“This book is a major contribution to our knowledge of sign language phonology both in its comprehensiveness and its complexity. The prosodic model offered here distinguishes between features necessary for describing movement (prosodic features) and all others (inherent features). Many phonological issues are handled insightfully with this distinction, particularly issues in syllable structure, which up to this point have baffled many a linguist. This book should be read by anyone interested in sign, in syllable structure, and in prosody in general.”
Doona Jo Napoli, Swarthmore College
“Dr. Brentari's book offers an up-to-date, informative, original and well-documented synthesis of current-day theories on the word-level phonological structure of sign languages.”
Harry van der Hulst, Holland Institue of Generative Linguistics, Leiden University
“Brentari has written a lucid, engaging, and expert account of the phonological structure of signed languages, providing an excellent resource for linguists and psychologists, alike. Brentari's book is essential reading for anyone interested in the abstract nature of human language.”
Karen Emmorey, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies