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In spoken language, patterns of vowels, consonants, and stress are used to feel the similarity of form between two words and create rhymes.

Can you do the same in sign language?

Also, is there sign language poetry that I could see using the patterns special to sign language?

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  • 2
    Do you mean American Sign Language? Apr 1 at 17:54
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    Why does a particular sign language matter? The question is about sign language(s) in general. (Though I agree that it sounds as if the questioner might not realise that there are many sign languages)
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 2 at 19:07
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Absolutely yes, sign languages have rhymes and poetry and rhythm. All are based on modifying the prose form (normal, non-special daily use form) of the language to create heightened sensation - through control of pace, repetition of handshape or movement or facial features or accentuation of certain signs.

I'm not keen on the webpage @user6726 kindly linked to. I don't like signed poems based on spoken language poems, which often seem unnatural to me or to native signers (maybe because they are inevitably partial translations and not grounded in a visual heritage). For an alternate look at a more native signer style of verse, see this children's cowboy duel in visual vernacular. There's no subtitles but the general context is clear.

FYI, my deaf kids used to love watching this. Note the tightly controlled pace and rhythm, the strategic repetition of handshapes, the speedup and slowdown of signing, the way that several phases (aka lines) are brought back to the same situation / location, and many other elements. Searching Youtube for 'Deaf Cowboy' will bring up other videos in the same style.

Another accessible poem is 'Tree' by Paul Scott. It's easy to understand without subtitles even though it is in BSL (British Sign Language) not ASL (American Sign Language). You can see the use of poetic repetition here, also the poetic use of magnification to suddenly change focus from something big (the tree) to something small (the cat). Another poetic element: some of the signs used here are not signs normally used in every day speech - because they are awkward or would look contrived in everyday discourse. However, in poetry they fit.

Hope that helps?

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Briefly, yes. This page gives a nice introduction to the ASL analogs. As with spoken language, you do this based on physical similarity, in the case of ASL the handshape, location, palm orientation, movement, and non-manual signal. Samples are included. However, I don't know of an intro to ASL rhyme designed for the curious, who have no knowledge of ASL at all (WHITE WOLF GONE, with nothing else around it so that you can focus on. The second video, Austin Andrews builds up to constructing a rhyme in ASL, with a perceptible example starting at around 3:29.

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  • Note the same features also function in ASL puns, which can be extremely complex.
    – jlawler
    Apr 1 at 16:57
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    Right about here "at all (WHITE" it seems like there's a discontinuity, something maybe missing from the answer? Apr 1 at 19:23
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    The web page suggests that those signs rhyme, but they don't give a demonstration, which is a missed opportunity to concretize the concept.
    – user6726
    Apr 1 at 21:20
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    @user6726 I'm with Kate Gregrory in that I don't understand "who have no knowledge of ASL at all (WHITE WOLF GONE, with nothing else around it so that you can focus on. " Apr 2 at 23:32
  • If you read the web page, the text suggests that those three signs rhyme. That may be true and suggestive for a signer, but for one who have no idea what those signs look like, it would have make their claim more concrete to actually demonstrate the rhyme.
    – user6726
    Apr 2 at 23:34

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