This MA thesis explores lexical processing in American Sign Language (ASL). Although a model of lexical processing exists for spoken languages, the research on lexical processing, storage, and organization in signed languages is not very extensive and has been focused on the core lexicon. The present study, for the first time, investigates the role of classifier constructions in ASL lexical processing. Classifier constructions form an essential part of the sign language lexicon, but have previously not been the foci of psycholinguistic studies. The present study compares processing of classifier constructions, with that of core lexical items and nonce signs with the help of a phoneme monitoring task. This task was performed by two participant groups: Deaf signers and hearing non-signers. An interaction of phonology and semantics was observed. Classifier constructions are processed differently than core or nonce signs in signers. Differences in processing time for classifier constructions vs. core signs are interpreted as a reflection of the fact that the meaning of a classifier construction cannot be anticipated prior to completion of the sign movement. Additionally, signers' responses to classifier constructions were slower than responses to nonce signs, suggesting that signers not only wait for the end of the movement, but then also have additional processing load of integrating classifier constructions with prior semantic context. Non-signers completed the task as rapidly as signers but did not display a difference in reaction times for the different sign types, which rules out the possibility that form differences such as sign complexity or sign duration were responsible for the differences observed in the Deaf signers' performance.
ASL, lexical access, lexical processes, classifier, classifiers, phonology, semantics
Level of Degree
Department of Linguistics
Morford, Jill P.
First Committee Member (Chair)
Wilcox, Phyllis Perrin
Second Committee Member
Kammann, Jeannine. "THE ROLE OF PHONOLOGY AND SEMANTICS IN THE LEXICAL PROCESSING OF ASL CORE LEXICAL ITEMS AND CLASSIFIER CONSTRUCTIONS." (2012). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ling_etds/20