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Here, we offer a general introduction to the topic of linguistics as it pertains to professional American Sign Language interpreting.  As we are neither professional linguists nor researchers, we do not pretend to offer scholarly treatment of the broader and complex subject.  Excellent online resources are available through universities and sites established by or for professional linguists - you will find some of these sites linked here and throughout this site.  

Our introduction begins with definitions because, after all, how can we discuss it if we don't know what it means?

 

 

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DEFINITIONS

LINGUISTICS

NOUN  The study of the nature, structure, and variation of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, and pragmatics.

 

LANGUAGE

NOUN  Human thought that is expressed in an organized system of communication and is spoken or signed.  

A spoken or signed language might then be coded into a written representation of the language.  The written form of a language is not the language itself, but is a coding (representation) of the language.  In addition to written forms, other coding possibilities may exist (Morse Code, for example).

PHONEME

NOUN  The absolute smallest part of a language that can change the meaning of a word.

The English word ace has meaning; but, when a p is added the word becomes pace; alternatively, when an m is added the word becomes mace.- neither pace nor mace has the meaning of ace, so ace has been changed (by the addition of the p or the addition of the m) and now means something altogether different.  In these examples, the p and the m are phonemes because they the smallest part of the words pace and mace that, when they were added, changed the meaning of the word ace.  This one's tricky, we know.

PHONETICS

NOUN  A system of the speech sounds specific to a particular language.

The phonetics of English, for example, does not include a guttural "click" (usually produced in the larynx), therefore such guttural sounds are not phonetically correct when speaking English.

PHONOLOGY

NOUN  A discernable pattern of speech sounds within a particular language; the tendency of a language's speech sounds, how they generally occur within a language.

Although the phonetics of English, for example, includes the ch and br sounds, the phonology of English does not generally permit these sounds to appear consecutively (within a single word) without a vowel sound between them.

PHONICS

NOUN  A method used to teach beginning readers how to de-code a written language by first understanding how its sounds are usually represented by letters and combinations of letters into words.

Many English words began life elsewhere but have retained their original spelling.  Such words present challenges to new readers learning by the phonics method. 

MORPHOLOGY

NOUN  The study of the structure and form of words - including inflection, derivation, and the formation of compounds.

MORPHEME

NOUN  The smallest word or part of a word that carries meaning and cannot be further reduced without the loss of its meaning.

A morpheme is not necessarily a syllable.  The English word reentered has three morphemes: re-; enter; and -ed.  Each of the three morphemes is meaningful -- the morpheme re- adds the meaning of again; the morpheme enter adds the meaning to proceed into and is the root (base); the morpheme -ed adds the meaning of past tense.  Together in this combination, the morphemes convey went into again.

SYNTAX

NOUN  The orderly arrangement of words into grammatically correct phrases or sentences.

SEMANTICS

NOUN  The meaning of individual words or phrases.

When saying, "I really splurged on my new car," one person may mean "I spent more than $25,000.00," while a different person may mean "I spent more than $200,000.00."  In this example, the meaning of splurged is a matter of semantics.

SOCIOLINGUISTICS

NOUN  How language and its use is shaped by a society or culture.

SYLLABLE

NOUN  In spoken English, typically (but not always) a unit of sound beginning and ending with at least one consonant with at least one vowel in the middle.

The English word fascistic is represented thusly: fas-cis-tic (three syllables).

 


... to be continued.


This page was edited: 09/28/2009
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TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

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