Prosody and Movement in American Sign Language: A Task-Dynamics Approach

Martha E. Tyrone, Hosung Nam, Elliot Saltzman, Gaurav Mathur, Louis Goldstein, Haskins Laboratories

This study examines prosody in American Sign Language using the theoretical framework of articulatory phonology, which proposes that the basic units of speech are articulatory gestures. We hypothesize that articulatory gestures are also the structural primitives of sign, and we are investigating what the gestures are and how they are timed. Kinematic data are collected as ASL users produce target signs with movements toward or away from the body, in phrase-initial, medial, or final position. Preliminary data suggest that signs are lengthened at phrase boundaries in a manner consistent with the predictions of a task-dynamic model of prosodically induced slowing.