Areas of Study


This dissertation will contribute to the literature on phonotactic constraints in American Sign Language (ASL).

In spoken languages, examining phonotactic constraints often involves testing how users of a language adapt nuanced words or borrowed words from other languages. When incorporated into a new language, nuance and borrowed words are often changed to reflect the phonotactic regularities of the borrowing language.

To date, most of the research on phonotactics in signed languages has studied borrowed words by examining changes that lexicalized fingerspelling has undergone. Examining changes undergone in borrowed words from other signed languages, as well as examining the reproduction of foreign words, should tell us more about phonotactic constraints of ASL.

I propose to compare the phonological production of words borrowed into ASL to the phonological production in their signed language of origin and the reproduction of Japanese Sign Language (JSL) words by ASL users to that of the form produced by native Japanese signers. I will examine feature-level changes made to signs using narrow phonetic-level transcriptions.

Assuming that ASL users rely on their phonological representation of ASL to perceive and reproduce signs, the changes underwent in the borrowed and reproduced words will reveal information about phonotactic knowledge in ASL.

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Phonotactic Constraints in ASL

Felicia Williams

Kenneth De Haan



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