Pinky

Part One continued...
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Helen's husband was a linotype operator, while Helen worked in a hospital cytology lab, viewing slides, for nearly twenty-four years. She and her husband had three daughters, all hearing. After approximately fifteen years of marriage, they divorced.

Helen has been a member of the local Deaf club for thirty-five years and has remained in close contact with many of her Deaf classmates from KSD as well.

Data Collection

Data collection consisted of videotaping Helen on four occasions. Three of the sessions lasted approximately two hours each. The fourth session lasted approximately one hour. During the first session, Helen was videotaped talking with a Deaf friend whom Helen has known since her high school days at KSD. During the second session, she was videotaped talking with a Deaf graduate student from Gallaudet University, a person whom Helen has seen occasionally during the past year. During the third session, she was again videotaped with her Deaf friend from KSD. And for the final session, she was videotaped with a hearing interpreter who has been a good friend of hers for several years.

The sessions, videotaped in Helen's home, were purposely kept as unstructured as possible to encourage naturalistic signing. For the first three sessions, Helen and the other participant were asked to "just chat." No topics of discussion were prescribed. Only during the final session were topics suggested (which, incidentally, made no difference in the frequency of PE).

Analysis

One hundred occurrences of PE were culled from approximately seven hours of videotaped discourse. Each occurrence was analyzed for handshape, syntactic category, preceding and subsequent handshape, topic, and sentential context. A subset of occurrences was also timed according to number of frames. These were then averaged and compared with occurrences of the same lexemes without PE. Finally, to determine if occurrences were socially constrained by level of intimacy with the other signer, the frequency and diversity of occurrences during the first session (between Helen and her longtime friend) were compared to those during the second session (between Helen and a relatively recent acquaintance).

Several issues that arose during data analysis should be noted. First, it was observed that the pinky was often extended during fingerspelling, for example during all the letters in the fingerspelled words I-T and L-I-L-L-Y. However, the extension in this case appears to be the result of a process distinct from that of PE during lexemes. In particular, PE during fingerspelling occurs only when the fingerspelled words contain the letter I. As will be demonstrated, this is a constraint unrelated to PE during lexical signs. Moreover, the constraints identified for PE during lexemes are inapplicable to fingerspelling. Therefore, it was concluded that PE during fingerspelling is a separate phenomenon with separate constraints. Accordingly, all examples of fingerspelling were excluded from analysis.

Also excluded were instances of "lexicalized" PE. These include signs such as YESTERDAY and KID. The older forms of these signs did not specify extension of the pinky. However, PE for these signs may now have become lexicalized, with the result that PE may not vary within the signing of an individual, native ASL signer. For instance, signers consistently sign YESTERDAY either with or without extension.

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