Looking through phonological shape to lexical meaning: the bottleneck of nonnative sign language processing

Año: 1989
Editorial: Memory and Cognition, nº 17 (1989) pp. 740–754
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Educación » Adquisición y desarrollo del lenguaje


In two studies, we find that native and non-native acquisition show different effects on sign language processing. Subjects were all born deaf and used sign language for interpersonal communication, but first acquired it at ages ranging from birth to 18. In the first study, deaf signers shadowed (simultaneously watched and reproduced) sign language narratives given in two dialects, American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Sign English (PSE), in both good and poor viewing conditions. In the second study, deaf signers recalled and shadowed grammatical and ungrammatical ASL sentences. In comparison with non-native signers, natives were more accurate, comprehended better, and made different kinds of lexical changes; natives primarily changed signs in relation to sign meaning independent of the phonological characteristics of the stimulus. In contrast, non-native signers primarily changed signs in relation to the phonological characteristics of the stimulus independent of lexical and sentential meaning. Semantic lexical changes were positively correlated to processing accuracy and comprehension, whereas phonological lexical changes were negatively correlated. The effects of non-native acquisition were similar across variations in the sign dialect, viewing condition, and processing task. The results suggest that native signers process lexical structural automatically, such that they can attend to and remember lexical and sentential meaning. In contrast, non-native signers appear to allocate more attention to the task of identifying phonological shape such that they have less attention available for retrieval and memory of lexical meaning.