Patterns of Variation in ASL Semantic Classifiers: Native and nonnative VEHICLE handshapes


  • Marie A. Nadolske Purdue University



This study examines handshape use in the American Sign Language Semantic "Classifier" VEHICLE. Elicited narratives from three adult populations (Deaf native, hearing native, and hearing nonnative) were analyzed to assess the allowable variation within group and across groups. While all groups displayed variation, Deaf natives produced the least amount, hearing natives produced more, and hearing nonnatives produced the most. While degree of nativeness was important, additional motivations for variation included articulation pressures, discourse factors, and vehicle type. These findings expand our understanding of systematic variation to a portion of ASL's lexicon previously thought to contain little or no possible variation.