The Effect of Iconicity on Weak Hand Drop in American Sign Language
Keywords:American Sign Language, iconicity
AbstractThe research community generally accepts that signed and spoken languages contain both iconicity and arbitrariness. Iconicity's impact on statistical distributions of motivated forms throughout signed language lexicons is clear (e.g. Occhino, 2016). However, there has been little work to determine whether the iconic links between form and meaning are relevant only to a sign's initial formation, or if these links are stored as part of lexical representations. In the present study, 40 Deaf signers of American Sign Language were asked to rate two-handed signs in their citation form and in one-handed (reduced) forms. Twelve signs were highly iconic. For each of these highly iconic sign, a less iconic but phonologically similar sign of the same grammatical category was also chosen. Signs were presented in carrier sentences and in isolation. Participants preferred one-handed forms of the highly iconic signs over one-handed forms of their phonolgogically similar but less iconic counterparts. Thus, iconicity impacted the application of a synchronic phonological process. This finding suggests that lexical representations retain iconic form-meaning links and that these links are accessible to the phonological grammar.
Published by the LSA with permission of the author(s) under a CC BY 3.0 license.