Brown Bag Event 5/3/13 @ SLCC 3233 – Casey Cochran

Casey Cochran will be giving a brown bag lunch presentation this Friday at noon in our open area (SLCC 3233). This presentation is based on her year-long GRP (Guided Research Project) work. Below is the abstract of her presentation.

See you there with your lunch!

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Toward the Surface Area Hypothesis
Casey Cochran (Dept. of Linguistics, Gallaudet University)

The use of two hands in signed languages poses a challenge for studying phonotactics, since, as originally observed by Battison (1978), the two articulators are not always treated or used equally. Battison proposed the Symmetry and Dominance Conditions to account for these interactions. However, most of the research pertaining to the conditions do not explain why these constraints occur, except that there may be physiological reasons behind them. This paper aims to fill that gap by proposing the following Surface Area Hypothesis (SAH): in two-handed signs, when the non-dominant hand is stationary (Type 3), it is restricted to one of several unmarked handshapes (BAS1O5C), because these handshapes provide the most surface area as a focal site for dominant hand contact.

Drawing from two phonetic notation systems, (Brentari, 1998; Liddell & Johnson, 2011), the hypothesis groups locations on the weak hand into three categories according to the availability of surface area: (1) plane, (2) line, and (3) point based on the amount of surface area (points of possible contact) the locations provide. The SAH predicts the frequency of each category on the non-dominant hand and also makes predictions about the interaction between those non-dominant hand focal sites and the dominant hand counterpart using the same surface area categories.

The Surface Area Hypothesis provides a physiological reason for constraints on the non-dominant hand; explains the tendency toward BAS1O5C handshapes, and predicts specific patterns in the relative frequency of each handshape while providing an explanatory account of the distribution of the non-dominant hand in one sign language that can be tested in other sign languages.

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