The Body’s Role Fall Lecture

Free and open to the public. ASL-English interpreting will be provided. Persons with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate in this event should contact Laura Tharsen at Organized by The Center for Gesture, Sign, and Language with support from the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society and the Department of Linguistics

Thursday, October 27
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Donna Jo Napoli, Swarthmore College
The Drive for Ease of Articulation in Sign Languages and Repercussions for the Lexicon and for Historical Linguistics

Sign languages exhibit a drive for ease of articulation in the movement parameter by reducing active effort via several mechanisms, including reducing the number of articulators, the number of articulations, and the mass that is moved.  They also exhibit the drive by reducing reactive effort -- which is the effort to resist incidental movement of a body part caused by movement in another body part; for example, the swinging of an arm can cause the torso to rock or spin. Avoiding signs that would call for reactive effort turns out to have an effect on the shape of the lexicon.  Finally, in reconstructing the history of a sign language, recognition of biomechanical methods for reducing effort allows one to develop standards for judging whether the movement parameter of signs in different languages can be judged "the same" or not.