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American Sign Language: "articulation"

A student writes:
Dr. Vicars,
During linguistics class you mentioned something to the effect that "articulation" was "had to do with moving one's lips and tongue" yet it seems like the term "enunciation" would fit that definition too. Do they both play a role?
-- Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Dear Jocelynn,
The word "articulate" (and articulation) has many different meanings.

A general meaning is "to explain or to make clear."

One interpretation of articulate means "skilled at speaking, a good speaker."
Sample sentence: "He is a very articulate speaker."
An equivalent of this in ASL would be, "HE/SHE SIGN-(skillfully), SKILL, CLEAR HE" (nod)

Another meaning of "articulate" is: "to form words."
That is the meaning we have been using in our Linguistics class: "to form words" (or signs, in our case).

"To articulate" a sign means to form your fingers into handshapes and then move your hands and arms in certain ways.

Now, as far as articulation, enunciation, and/or pronunciation are used in our classroom discussions of "articulatory bundles" I would suggest the following lines of thought:

Pronounce: A very general term meaning to speak a word or produce a sign.
Pronunciation: The "right way" to say a word or do a sign. How the sign should be produced.

Enunciation: A more specific term that tends to include the concept of clearly saying a word. I don't use this term when referring to the signing of ASL.

Articulation: When I use this term in class I'm referring to the the physical act of producing a sign. The act of moving the hands, fingers, arms, and body in specific ways. 
To me, "articulation" as used in our ASL linguistics class is similar to enunciation as used in an English. 

If, in an ASL linguistics class someone asks "What is the proper articulation of a sign?", that would be equivalent to asking "how should a word be pronounced" in English, (and/or what is the pronunciation of an English word).

-- Dr. Bill


This page is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of articulation.  It simply applies to the use of "articulation" as sometimes occurs in an ASL linguistics class.
The "articulation" of classes between two colleges is a completely different topic and best understood by reviewing general "college advising" sites.

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

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