Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Study on Intonation and Sign Language: The Acquisition of Prosody in ASL

  • Published: 2015-09-29 (Revised/Updated 2017-06-09) : Author: Linguistic Society of America : Contact: www.lsadc.org
  • Synopsis: Study finds ASL signers learn intonation in much the same way that users of spoken languages do.
Intonation

In linguistics, intonation is defined as the variation of spoken pitch that is not used to distinguish words; instead it is used for a range of functions such as indicating the attitudes and emotions of the speaker, Signalling the difference between statements and questions, and between different types of questions, focusing attention on important elements of the spoken message and also helping to regulate conversational interaction.

Main Document

"This research may also make it easier to accurately transcribe certain linguistic units of ASL, which could benefit automatic ASL translation through motion-capture software."

A spoken language is more than just words and sounds.

Speakers use changes in pitch and rhythm, known as prosody, to provide emphasis, show emotion, and otherwise add meaning to what they say. But a language does not need to be spoken to have prosody: sign languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL), use movements, pauses and facial expressions to achieve the same goals.

In a study appearing in the September 2015 issue of Language, three linguists look at intonation (a key part of prosody) in ASL and find that native ASL signers learn intonation in much the same way that users of spoken languages do.

Diane Brentari (University of Chicago), Joshua Falk (University of Chicago), and George Wolford (Purdue University) studied how deaf children (ages 5-8) who were native learners of ASL used intonational features like 'sign lengthening' and facial cues as they acquired ASL.

They found that children learned these features in three stages of "appearance, reorganization, and mastery" - accurately replicating their use in simpler contexts, attempting unsuccessfully at first to use them in more challenging contexts, then using them accurately in all contexts as they fully learn the rules of prosody.

Previous research has shown that native learners of spoken languages acquire intonation following a similar pattern. Brentari et al. also found that young signers of ASL use certain intonational features with different frequencies than adult ASL signers.

This study, "The acquisition of prosody in American Sign Language", is the first comparative analysis of prosody in ASL between children and adults who are native ASL signers, and helps demonstrate the similarities in language acquisition between signed and spoken languages.

This research may also make it easier to accurately transcribe certain linguistic units of ASL, which could benefit automatic ASL translation through motion-capture software. Brentari et al.'s research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of Chicago's Center for Gesture, Sign, and Language.

Other highlights from the September 2015 issue of Language include:

Similar Topics

1 : Using Sign Language Builds Phrases with Similar Neural Mechanisms as Speaking : New York University.
2 : Hearing Charities of America's Hearing Aid Project Changing Lives with Donor's Help : Hearing Charities of America.
3 : Brain Imaging Predicts Language Learning in Deaf Children : Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
4 : Sign Language Comparative List of Astronomical Words : International Astronomical Union.
5 : Sign Language May Offer Answer to Meaning of Music : New York University.
From our Deaf Communication section - Full List (64 Items)


Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





1 : Bias Keeps Women with Higher Body Weight Away From the Doctor
2 : Smart Hoteliers are Building a Healthier Future
3 : Teaching Baby Sign Language - Nita, Show Us More
4 : MitoQ Novel Antioxidant Makes Old Arteries Seem Young Again
5 : Telemedicine Helps Overcome Healthcare Gender Based Barriers
6 : Screen Reader Plus Keyboard Helps Blind, Low-Vision Users Browse Modern Webpages
7 : Our Digital Remains Should be Treated with Same Care and Respect as Physical Remains
8 : Tungsten: Concern Over Possible Health Risk by Human Exposure to Tungsten


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™