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Factors Indicating Prosodic Function

Three other factors - duration, pauses, and word repetitions - were also examined. All three seem to be related to PE. Thus one might conclude that these are also constraints upon PE. However, I would suggest that a more productive way to view these factors is as prosodic features of ASL indicating stress. Further, I suggest that PE is also a prosodic feature indicating stress that co-occurs with other prosodic features indicating stress if linguistic and social constraints are satisfied. In other words, it is more likely that the prosodic structure of ASL results in the co-occurrence of PE with these features, rather than one being constrained by the other.


When the duration of signs with PE was compared with the duration of the same signs without PE, the difference was striking. For example, the average duration of the sign WONDER with PE was 20-5 frames. The average duration of the sign WONDER without PE was 9-3 frames.

When the duration of several signs with PE was averaged, the average length was 17.9 frames. The average of the same signs without PE was 9 frames. The breakdown of these averages is set forth in Table 5.


PE most often occurred immediately before a pause. During a pause, the hands were held motionless for a short time or were returned to the rest position. Often, but not always, these pauses occurred at the end of the sentence. The following are a few examples:

WHAT D-O WHAT. [Pause]. WONDER. [Pause]. GET-UP.

"What should I do? I wondered about it. Then I got up."
EAT. SWALLOW [pause]. BLACK DROOL. [Shivers and scowls].
"He put it in his mouth. And he swallowed it. Then drooled black drool. Yuck!"

As mentioned, Coulter (1993) demonstrated that ASL exhibits lengthening before phrase and sentence boundaries. I suggest that PE can co-occur with phrase final lengthening, the greater articulatory effort signaling a kind of discourse focus or stress.


Finally, PE often occurred with a verb that was repeated several times within a single topic. Such repetition suggests that the activity denoted by the verb was a primary focus of the signer's discourse and that PE acts as a marker of this focus.

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