Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 445–513 | Cite as

American Sign Language compound formation processes, lexicalization, and phonological remnants

  • Scott K. Liddell
  • Robert E. Johnson


ASL compounds are formed through a process which systematically alters the form of both lexical stems which enter into the process. The resulting phonetic form of a productively derived ASL compound is traceable to the two signs from which it was derived, but does not consist of two meaningful phonetic forms. Once lexicalized, ASL compounds undergo diachronic changes to such an extent that there is no longer even the possibility of considering a synchronic derivation for these forms. In spite of this, words such as BELIEVE and AGREE retain their identity as compounds as demonstrated by their unexpected behavior when inflected for unrealized-inceptive aspect. We are led to the conclusion that in ASL a lexical compound (but not a productively formed compound) is composed of two phonological parts which are neither lexical stems nor morphemes. Since they come about as a result of the lexicalization process, we have called them Lexicalized Phonological Remnants.

The illustrations for this paper are by Paul M. Setzer. The production of the illustrations was supported by the Gallaudet Research Institute.


Artificial Intelligence Formation Process American Sign Compound Formation Lexicalization Process 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott K. Liddell
    • 1
  • Robert E. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Linguistics DepartmentGallaudet CollegeWashington

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