SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 34

Sign Language Structure Stokoe, Jr. appear to have the same order of priority and importance as the segmental phonemes of speech are the aspects of configuration, position or location, and motion. Other features of sign language appear to operate with these basic aspects in some such way as do pitch, stress, and juncture with the segmental phonemes. One such feature is facial expression already noted above. It seems likely that behavior of the kind classified as kinesic when it accompanies speech (Trager, 1958), may have a more central function in a visual language. That is, the same activity which is kinesic with respect to American English may actually be suprasegmental, or metaspectual, in sign language. But analysis of these features presents many difficulties, and if the assumption of the writer and his research associates is correct, this analysis will be much more feasible after the analysis of the basic aspects. Like consonant and vowel, the aspects position, configuration, and motion may only be described in terms of contrast with each other. Position may be signaled by proximity of the moving configuration to a part of the signer’s body: a fist moved at the chin, the forehead, and the chest, makes not one, but three distinct sign--‘ice cream’; ‘Sweden’; ‘sorry’. But when the marker is the non-moving hand, position is signaled by configuration of that hand: for example, let the configuration of the moving hand be the index extended, the motion be brushing down or out across the tips of the fingers of the non-moving hand; if the non-moving, position-marking hand has all fingers outstretched one sign is made, ‘what’; but if only the little finger is held out, a quite different sign is made, ‘last’ (for some signers). Configuration is here a feature of both the moving and the marking hand, but it is serving configurationally for the one and positionally for the other. Similarly the aspect of motion may be observed to be sometimes a change in configuration without movement in space. But a change in configuration will still be motion as determined by the language, because it has the same function structurally as movement through space. 1.21. The aspects of the structure of the sign need more convenient terms than position, configuration, and motion; and it will be as well to avoid the suggestion of mutual exclusiveness these words have in their ordinary uses. Tabula, designator, and signation may be easily shortened to tab, dez, and sig, and we may define them thus: A tab is that aspect of the unanalyzed visual complex called the sign which by proximity to a part of the signer’s body, by position in space, or by configuration of the non-moving hand signals position as contrasted with dez and sig. A dez is the configuration of the hand or hands which make a sig in a tab. A sig is the movement or change in configuration of the dez in an otherwise signaled tab. 1.22. This order: tab, dez, sig, is used throughout this paper. Although it corresponds to no certain time sequence in the occurrence of sign language phenomena, the order adopted permits some nice economics of notation. Like the hundreds, tens, units of decimal numeration, the tab, dez, and sign places permit the same symbol to have more than one denotation. Many of the configurations of the tab hand are identical with those of the dez hand. A three place notation permits the same symbol to be used to stand for either aspect with immediate distinctness. Sig symbols likewise have a different value in tab or dez place. One sign, for example, is the motion of turning the dez in pronation. If a tab or dez differs from another only by the attitude of the hand, a subscript (in this case the symbol for pronation) to the tab or dez symbol will indicate that the configuration is thus presented. 1.3. A number of signs are marked positionally by contact with or proximity to a precise point on the signer’s body. Forehead, temple, cheek, ear, eyebrow, eyes, nose, lips, teeth, chin, and SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 34