Phoneme, Phonemes in sign languages

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Summary

A phoneme is a basic unit of a language's phonology, which is combined with other phonemes to form meaningful units such as words or morphemes. The phoneme can be described as "The smallest contrastive linguistic unit which may bring about a change of meaning". In this way the difference in meaning between the English words kill and kiss is a result of the exchange of the phoneme for the phoneme . Two words that differ in meaning through a contrast of a single phoneme form a minimal pair.

Details

In sign languages, the basic elements of gesture and location were formerly called cheremes or cheiremes but they are now generally referred to as phonemes, as with oral languages.

Sign language phonemes are combinations of articulation bundles in ASL. These bundles may be classified as tab (elements of location, from Latin tabula), dez (the hand shape, from designator), sig (the motion, from signation), and with some researchers, ori (orientation). Facial expression and mouthing are also considered articulation bundles. Just as with spoken languages, when these bundles are combined, they create phonemes.

Stokoe notation is no longer used by researchers to denote the phonemes of sign languages; his research, while still considered seminal, has been found to not describe American Sign Language and cannot be used interchangeable with other signed languages. Originally developed for American Sign Language, it has also been applied to British Sign Language by Kyle and Woll, and to Australian Aboriginal sign languages by Adam Kendon. Other sign notations, such as the Hamburg Notation System and SignWriting, are phonetic scripts capable of writing any sign language. Stokoe's work has been succeeded and improved upon by researcher Scott Liddell in his book Grammar, Gesture and Meaning, and both Stokoe and Liddell's work have been included in the Linguistics of American Sign Language, 5th Edition.

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