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Shaping Phonology$
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Diane Brentari and Jackson L. Lee

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226562452

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226562599.001.0001

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The Importance of Autosegmental Representations for Sign Language Phonology

The Importance of Autosegmental Representations for Sign Language Phonology

(p.119) Six The Importance of Autosegmental Representations for Sign Language Phonology
Shaping Phonology

Diane Brentari

University of Chicago Press

This chapter outlines the contribution of autosegmental phonology to the field of sign language phonology. Phonological description is influenced by the theoretical models used to express them, and at the time of Goldsmith’s thesis (published in 1976), research on sign language phonology was still in its infancy. In Stokoe (1960), the first monograph of sign language phonology, phonological representations of American Sign Language (ASL) were described very differently than phonological representations of spoken languages at the time. Two phenomena from autosegmental theory that were of great benefit to sign language phonology will be discussed in this paper. First, the simultaneous and multi-dimensional possibilities inherent in autosegmental phonology provided a means to talk about the sign language “parameters” of handshape, movement, and place of articulation in terms that were comprehensible to researchers working on spoken languages. Second, the link between autosegmental phonology and prosodic structure, and advances in our understanding of the syllable, allowed syllable weight and sonority to be considered according to both its simultaneous and sequential organization, rather than via sequential mechanisms alone.

Keywords:   sign language, syllables, phonological representation, hierarchical organization, sonority, communication modality

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