‘Variations in Phrasal Rhythmic Patterns of Sign Language

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The ratio is calculated by dividing lexical sign duration by transitional movements duration. Another goal of the research is to use rhythm ratio to investigate how much contribution sociolinguistic factors such as gender, age, and sign variety made to such variations by rhythmic analysis of groups and individual American Sign Language (ASL) narratives. The results attest that rhythm ratio could be a potential methodology to capture rhythmic patterns of ASL with different sign varieties. In addition, its findings demonstrate that the three suggested sociolinguistic factors give rise to ASL rhythmic variation, with age being the most foreseeable cause for such variation, followed by gender, and then sign variety such as Black ASL. 

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The authors concluded that signers would express themselves through prosodic patterns which suggest they are representatives of different communities. The one study involving phrasal rhythm was the study of Swiss German Sign Language which researchers found that side-to-side leans mark rhythmic unites when signers were standing (Boyes Braem, 1999). Considering the fact that very little research has been done specifically on transitional movement in sign language, it motivates the authors to expand the use of rhythmic patterns to measure sign variation and fill the gap in the literature.

In this experiment, 24 ASL signers were recruited and put in groups according to their age (young and old), gender (male and female), and sign variety (Black ASL and Mainstream ASL). However, there was one unrepresentative sample being excluded within the 24 participants due to her late SL acquisition. The researchers did so because this sample should not be used to make any inference regarding prosodic patterns about the population to prevent selection bias (internal validity). 

Within the sample, 4 men (0.67) and 2 women (0.33) were assigned to older (mean age: 63.4) Black ASL group while 3 men (0.43) and 4 women (0.57) were in the older mainstream ASL group. For younger groups (mean age: 25.6), the Black ASL group consists of 3 males (0.60) and 2 females (0.40), and the mainstream ASL group has 2 males (0.40) and 3 females (0.60). Therein lies the problem of the sample size being too size and not well-distributed. The sample number for older Black ASL women signers, in particular, is relatively low. Therefore, the research results could only remain suggestive as described by the writers.

Regarding the experimental procedure, the participants had to watch one of the two selected Disney carton and retell the story afterwards so individual data can be collected. Then, the gathered narratives were retold to other signers according to their race and age so group variation can be analysed. The tool utilised for sign language annotations with the 23 narratives was ELAN developed by The Language Archive in 2020 (Perniss, 2015). This instrument was used by 2 independent annotators to measure the three most crucial cues for analysing rhythmic patterns which are sign duration, transition duration, and phrasal position. During the annotation process, there was disagreements between the annotators regarding the analysis for Utterances, Intonational Phrase, sign duration, and transitional duration. However, all debates were addressed by recoding and re-evaluating part of the data which increases the reliability of the experiment.  

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