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Finally, clear examples of phonological assimilation were also excluded. In these instances, it was observed that the extension of the pinky occurred (or spread) gradually over only certain segments of the target sign. For example, in the sentence THINK ABOUT I-T, the pinky began to be extended after the initial formation of the sign ABOUT and then continued into the following sign "I." This was in sharp contrast to the 100 examples of PE where the extension of the pinky attached to all segments of the target sign and acted in concert with the specified fingers of the sign.


As indicated, each occurrence of PE was analyzed for handshape, preceding and subsequent handshape, sign, syntactic category, topic, sentential context, and formality. In addition, a subset of occurrences was analyzed for duration as measured by frames. We will discuss the findings for each of these factors, beginning with those that appear to have no relationship to the occurrence of PE and concluding with those that do.

Factors with No Relationship to Pinky Extension


At the outset of this study, it was expected that if the handshape of the sign immediately preceding or following the target sign included an extended pinky (either as specified by the citation form or as a result of PE), then PE on the target sign would be more likely. However, the findings indicate that preceding and subsequent finger configurations have no effect upon the occurrence of PE in the target sign.

As Table I illustrates, 95 percent of the occurrences of PE follow signs in which the pinky is not extended. Moreover, 97 percent of the occurrences of PE precede signs in which the pinky is not extended.

Thus, in most instances, PE occurred despite the fact that the pinky was not extended during either the preceding or the subsequent sign. The converse is also true (i.e., although the pinky may be extended during the preceding or subsequent sign, the target sign is often formed without PE). For instance, in one sentence, the sign WONDER occurred immediately after the sign WAIT. Both of these signs can exhibit PE, as indicated by other examples in the data. However, in this instance, PE occurred only during the sign WAIT. The following sign, WONDER, was signed in its citation form. The sentential context in which this occurred was as follows:


TABLE I. Phonological Assimilation Analysis
Context No. of Occurrences Percentage
Pinky extended in preceding handshape 5 5
Pinky not extended in preceding handshape 95 95
Pinky extended in subsequent handshape 3 3
Pinky not extended in subsequent handshape 97 97

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