The hands and mouth do not always slip together in British Sign Language: Dissociating articulatory channels in the lexicon

Abstract

We investigate the extent of integration between the hands and mouthing for lexical signs in British Sign Language, using picture naming and translation tasks that are sensitive to semantic similarity effects in lexical retrieval. Semantic errors in sign forms due to semantically related contexts were more common in translation from English than in picture naming, while semantic errors in mouth patterns were sensitive to semantic context only in picture naming, and not in translation from English. These results are consistent with an account whereby mouthing is accessed through a largely separable channel from manual components of the sign lexicon, rather than being bundled with manual components and incorporated into the sign language lexicon despite its original relationship to English. Effects did not differ between Deaf and hearing native signers, suggesting that stronger links between orthography and phonology in the hearing group do not play a role.


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