Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 526–539 | Cite as

Subjective frequency ratings for 432 ASL signs

  • Rachel I. MayberryEmail author
  • Matthew L. Hall
  • Meghan Zvaigzne


Given the importance of lexical frequency for psycholinguistic research and the lack of comprehensive frequency data for sign languages, we collected subjective estimates of lexical frequency for 432 signs in American Sign Language (ASL). Our participants were 59 deaf signers who first began to acquire ASL at ages ranging from birth to 14 years old and who had a minimum of 10 years of experience. Subjective frequency estimates were made on a scale ranging from 1 = rarely see the sign to 7 = always see the sign. The mean subjective frequency ratings for individual signs did not vary in relation to age of sign language exposure (AoLE), chronological age, or length of ASL experience. Nor did AoLE show significant effects on the response times (RTs) for making the ratings. However, RTs were highly correlated with mean frequency ratings. These results suggest that the distributions of subjective lexical frequencies are consistent across signers with varying AoLEs. The implications for research practice are that subjective frequency ratings from random samples of highly experienced deaf signers can provide a reasonable measure of lexical control in sign language experiments. The Appendix gives the mean and median subjective frequency ratings and the mean and median log(RT) of the ASL signs for the entire sample; the supplemental material gives these measures for the three AoLE groups: native, early, and late.


Sign language Lexical frequency Subjective frequency Age of acquisition ASL Psycholinguistics 


Author Note

This study was supported by research Grant Nos. NSERC 410-2004-1775 and NIH R01DC12797. We thank the many individuals who volunteered for this study, Pamela Witcher and Patricia Viens for research assistance, and Brendan Costello and Matthew Pastizzo for helpful manuscript comments.

Supplementary material

13428_2013_370_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (118 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 117 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel I. Mayberry
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew L. Hall
    • 1
  • Meghan Zvaigzne
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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