1.1. The core lexicon

The core, or established, or frozen lexicon, of Spanish Sign Language (LSE) is defined as the set of signs with clearly determined formative parameters within LSE. These signs are completely fixed in their form and are therefore systematically articulated in the same way (Muñoz Baell, 1999, p. 45).

Morales López et al. (2002) state that the signs from the core lexicon have a stable meaning, regardless of context, and are widely used among a large group of signers. These signs are typically included in LSE dictionaries.

Signs of the core lexicon can exhibit different degrees of iconicity and their sublexical structure is based on the phonological elements of LSE, as outlined in the phonology lessons (Phonology).

The signs of the core lexicon can be classified in several ways. For example, a sign can be made with one hand or two hands (bimanual). FLOWER is articulated with one hand.

Bimanual signs can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, each subject to different phonological constraints (Battison, 1978/2003; Brentari, 1998). The symmetry condition applies to symmetrical signs, stating that if both hands move independently, they must have the same shape, be in the same location, have the same orientation (or be symmetrical) and perform the same movement (or alternating). NURSE is a symmetrical bimanual sign.

For asymmetrical signs, the dominance constraint applies. It states that if the hands have different shapes, one hand articulates the movement while the other remains passive and assumes a shape from a limited set. BILL is an asymmetrical bimanual sign.

Signs of the core lexicon can be simple or compound. Compound signs are constructed with two or more signs, giving them a more complex internal structure than simple signs. SATURDAY and SUNDAY are simple signs, but together they form the compound sign SATURDAY^SUNDAY, which means "weekend" (Valdemoro Fernández-Quevedo, 2002, p. 187).

Another classification for core lexicon signs depends on the level of phonological specification. Many signs are fully specified, wherein all their parameters (like handshape, orientation, movement, and location) have a specific value. A change in one of these parameters can change the sign's meaning, forming a minimal pair. For example, LIE and DIRT in LSE are fully specified signs that only differ in handshape (Phonology).

There are also signs in LSE that are not fully specified, as not all their phonological parameters have a specific value. This is typical for agreement verbs, which specify handshape and movement, but not hand orientation and location. These are specified when the verb agrees with its arguments. For instance, the verb TAKE requires locations associated with the subject and the object for its specification. In the absence of these arguments, agreement verbs often appear in dictionaries with the subject in the first person and in neutral space in front of the signer.

Take the following examples:

(1) TAKE

(2) TABLE(centre) PEN CL"pen on top of the table, to the left" YOU TAKE(left) (You have taken the pen from the table)

The verb TAKE in (1) is how we find it in dictionaries. Without a specified subject and object, it's usually presented with the subject in the first person and the object located in the centre. However, in (2) TAKE is already specified, and we know that the subject is the interlocutor YOU and the object, the pen, is located to the left.

Villameriel García, S. (2023). Lexicon: 1.1. The core lexicon. In S. Villameriel García (Ed.), Gramática de la Lengua de Signos Española (GramLSE) / Grammar of Spanish Sign Language (GramLSE). Real Patronato sobre Discapacidad. Retrieved Month DD, YYYY, from https://cnlse.es/es/recursos/gramlse/ingles/index/lexicon/native-lexicon/core-lexicon