Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Irish Sign Language

Irish Sign Language: A Cognitive Linguistic Approach

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Irish Sign Language
    Book Description:

    As the only book of its kind, this book describes the social and historical background of this signed language and places Irish Sign Language in a world context. The Signs of Ireland corpus is used to introduce phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.It also examines the key influences driving signed language linguistics in the past decade, including: recognition of the role of gesture; the influence of cognitive linguistics; the complexities of iconic representation in signing space; the role of simultaneous construction; and the grammar of ISL. All examples listed are drawn from the Signs of Ireland corpus, one of the largest digital corpora of a signed language in Europe, and are included on the accompanying DVD. An essential resource for sign language teachers and interpreters, students of sign linguistics, and learners of ISL in Ireland, this book offers new insights into the role of gesture, spatial models, iconicity, metaphor, and metonymy in ISL grammar, vocabulary and discourse.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-5629-5
    Subjects: Linguistics, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the language used by an estimated 5,000 Deaf people in the Republic of Ireland and some 1,500 signers in Northern Ireland. It is neither Irish (Gaeilge) on the hands nor English in manual form. ISL is a natural human language that has evolved over time and is distinct also from the signed languages of other countries that share English as a spoken language, such as Britain, where British Sign Language (BSL) is used, and the United States of America, where American Sign Language (ASL) is used. Irish Sign Language has no formal standing in law...

  6. 2 What Is a Signed Language?
    (pp. 13-27)

    In this chapter we will introduce the general features of language – spoken or signed. This chapter introduces the notion that language can exist in one of two modalities: oral or gestural. We introduce the design features of language and consider them with respect to signed languages. We discuss the issues which signed linguistics have identified as distinguishing signed languages from spoken languages most radically. Specific topics for consideration include the use of the signer’s own body, the ways in which signing space are used, simultaneity and iconicity.

    Researchers have identified a list of criteria for defining ‘language’ as opposed to...

  7. 3 The Historical and Social Context
    (pp. 28-59)

    This chapter discusses the history of ISL and introduces the contemporary context within which it operates. In the first part of the chapter we outline the evolution of ISL, which is inextricably linked to the story of the establishment of deaf education in Ireland, and reveals relationships with Langue des Signes Française (LSF) and British Sign Language (BSL). We also discuss the ways in which ISL has impacted on other languages, again via an educational link: for example, Irish Catholic religious orders established schools for the deaf in Australia, South Africa and the UK, where the language of instruction was...

  8. 4 The Phonetics and Phonology of ISL
    (pp. 60-89)

    This chapter introduces readers to the first aspect of linguistic analysis proper: the phonetics and phonology of ISL. We begin by defining phonetics and phonology, outlining the importance of being able to identify what data are considered significant in linguistic terms. We show how the notion of minimal pairs helps us to identify the phonological units of ISL that make up signs. We discuss manual, non-manual and multi-channel signs and introduce Stokoe’s (1960) original parameters for analysis of manual signs: handshape, movement and location. We look at the handshapes that are used in ISL and discuss the issue of allophonic...

  9. 5 Inflectional and Derivational Morphology
    (pp. 90-124)

    This chapter deals with the identification of morphemes in ISL, an essential precursor to our discussion on how words are formed in ISL. We will discuss the forms of modification of signs that can be considered morphological in nature; and we will examine the role of inflectional morphology, in particular in verbs, and discuss its relationship to verb classes. We will consider a range of topics including the marking of agreement and of number on verbs; the marking of aspect; classifier predicates; and compound formation. First, we begin by considering the status of words and morphemes in ISL.

    We begin...

  10. 6 The ISL Lexicon
    (pp. 125-148)

    In Chapter 5, we outlined aspects of the morphological system in ISL. We considered what constitutes a word in ISL and considered how plurals are marked and how compounds are formed, amongst other things. This chapter builds on that discussion, focusing on the morphology of the lexicon. We differentiate between the established lexicon, namely those signs that have a fixed citation form and are typically cited in dictionaries of ISL, and the productive lexicon, which makes use of the productive relationship between a narrow set of handshapes that can operate in signing space to create new, dynamic descriptions of entities....

  11. 7 Syntax
    (pp. 149-174)

    In this chapter we look at how ISL sentences are constructed. In comparison with some other signed languages there has been relatively little investigation of syntactic structure and our discussion remains at a fairly preliminary level. We begin by looking at the basic building blocks of sentences, the syntactic categories. We saw in Chapter 5 the morphological behaviour that distinguishes the two basic grammatical categories of noun and verb. They are also distinguished by their syntactic behaviour, that is the other elements they combine with to form sentences. For example, nouns may be modified by determiners and adjectives; verbs are...

  12. 8 Discourse
    (pp. 175-208)

    This chapter discusses discourse features at both the macro, interactional level and the more micro, discourse-internal level. For the former we concentrate on the participants’ processes of managing conversational interaction: the signalling of turn-taking, topic maintenance and politeness. For the latter we are concerned with discourse cohesion. Picking up on topics from earlier chapters, we discuss the use of space, of deictic systems and of discourse connectives in the maintenance of the common ground of the conversation. Finally we broaden the discussion to consider forms of talk in ISL, and spend some time looking at the establishment and maintenance of...

  13. 9 Towards a Cognitive Account of Signed Languages
    (pp. 209-223)

    In this chapter we return to the ideas of cognitive linguistics, which we have touched on at several points in this volume. We will examine what light the study of ISL can throw on important notions in this paradigm. Looking the other way, we shall see how useful these notions are for bringing out key features of ISL. We have, for example, touched on the role of metaphor and metonymy in the ISL lexicon. We have also seen something of the spatial mental models by which signers keep track of entities in discourse. Similar spatial cognitive strategies are seen in...

  14. References
    (pp. 224-237)
  15. Index of Names
    (pp. 238-240)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 241-244)