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Asl phonology, classes of speech sounds, and feature specifications anthony verzosa
WESTERN MINDANAO STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS
English Phonology and Art of Speaking
Anthony Diaz Verzosa
A.American Sign Language (ASL) Phonology
B.Natural Classes of Speech Sounds
C.Feature Specifications of American English
Consonants and Vowels
American Sign Language (ASL) Phonology
Sign languages such as the American Sign Language (ASL) are
characterized by phonological processes analogous to, yet dissimilar
from those of oral languages.
The phonology of sign language can be further understood in broad
categories called parameters.
Parameters are distinguishing features or noticeable characteristics
used for creating signs with meaning in ASL.
SIGN LANGUAGE PHONOLOGY
SPOKEN LANGUAGE PHONOLOGY
The Parameters in ASL Phonology
2. Movement (Repetition/Direction)
3. Palm Orientation
5. Facial Expression
This refers to the physical parameters of
bodily locations where the signs are
Examples are the signs for “mother” and
“father”/ signs for “apple” and “onion”
This refers to the changing of the
location of the hand within the set
of physical parameters during sign
Examples are the signs “school” in
comparison to “paper”.
This is where we get what we call in sign
language “noun-verb pairs”.
Examples are the signs for “sit” and “chair” /
signs for “fly” and “airplane”
This refers to the course of movements within
Examples are the signs for “paper” and the
verb “to clean”.
This refers to the direction in which the
hand is turned to produce a sign. Palm
Orientation is the direction of your palm
which may include palm up, palm down,
palm right, palm left, palm outward, and
“children” ------ palm down
“things” -------palm up
“balance’ ----- palms down and
simultaneously moving from top to bottom
“maybe”------palms down and
simultaneously moving from top to bottom
Handshape refers physically to the shape of
the hand producing the sign. You can describe
the shape very specifically, like all 4 fingers
are straight and close together and the thumb
is across the hand or you can describe it by
comparing the shape to a known ASL shape.
• Examples are the signs for “mother”
and the verb “to imbibe” / signs for
“school” and “impossible”
A facial expression is one or more emotions
or potions of the muscles beneath the skin of
the face. The movements convey emotional
state of an individual two observers. Facial
expressions are a form of none verbal
communication. These are non-manual
For example, if you sign the word “quiet” and
add an exaggerated or intense facial
expression, you are telling the audience to be
The phonology in American Sign Language can
be broken down to section and segments similar
to spoken language. The phonemes in sign
language are categorically represented through
a feature called parameters. The individual
parameters in sign language bear no meaning
but blending and changing one parameter with
another parameter can change the meaning of
one morpheme or a word or form a new one; a
principle that is closely similar to that presented
in spoken language.
Natural Classes of Speech Sounds
In phonology, a natural class is a set of
phonemes in a language that share certain
A natural class is a group of sounds described by a small number
of distinctive features
All members of a natural class have the same effect on other
sounds that occur in their environment.
Natural classes can be defined by (+) and (–) feature values
For a group of sounds to
constitute a natural class,
they must all share one or more features and
there should be no other sounds in the
language that have this feature or combination
the phonemes [p, t, k,] can be grouped together
as a natural class by showing the binary
distribution of the features.
voiceless stops in the English language
If one feature is altered, the natural
class is changed.
voiced stops in Standard English
The third table shows that when one more feature is
altered, yet a different natural class is yielded. Now that
the feature [continuant] has been altered from [-] to [+],
we must add all the sounds in English that fit this
• Often the case is that, the fewer
features used to describe a natural
class, the larger the class.
• However, by adding features, we reduce
the possible candidates for a natural
Feature Specification for American
English Consonants and Vowels
Through the following charts, one may be
able to easily identify the members of each
class of phonemes by selecting all the
segments marked + or – for a single feature.