ANCHORING is amodal: Evidence from a signed language

Qatherine Andan, Outi Bat-El, Diane Brentari, Iris Berent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across languages, certain linguistic forms are systematically preferred to others (e.g. bla > lba). But whether these preferences concern abstract constraints on language structure, generally, or whether these restrictions only apply to speech is unknown. To address this question, here we ask whether linguistic constraints previously identified in spoken languages apply to signs. One such constraint, ANCHORING, restricts the structure of reduplicated forms (AB → ABB, not ABA). In two experiments, native ASL signers rated the acceptability of novel reduplicated forms that either violated ANCHORING (ABA) or obeyed it (ABB). In Experiment 1, signers made a forced choice between ABB and ABA forms; in Experiment 2, signers rated signs individually. Results showed that signers prefer signs that obey ANCHORING over ANCHORING violations (ABB > ABA). These findings show for the first time that ANCHORING is operative in ASL signers. These results suggest that some linguistic constraints are amodal, applying to both speech and signs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-283
Number of pages5
StatePublished - Nov 2018


FundersFunder number
National Science Foundation1528411


    • Amodal phonology
    • Optimality theory
    • Phonology
    • Reduplication
    • Sign language


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