Tory Sampson and Rachel Mayberry have a new publication in Language

Graduate student Tory Sampson and faculty member Rachel Mayberry have a new publication in Language, titled “An Emerging SELF: The Copula Cycle in American Sign Language.” The abstract is as follows:

We question the commonly accepted assumption that American Sign Language (ASL) has no overt copula. We present evidence that one of the functions of the sign self in present-day ASL is as a copula. This sign evolved into its current function by way of a grammaticalization process called the ‘copula cycle’ (Katz 1996). The copula cycle consists of a deictic item transforming into a demonstrative pronoun and then into a copula by means of a series of syntactic reanalyses. We present corpus evidence from Old French Sign Language (LSF) in the 1850s, Old ASL in the 1910s, and present-day ASL dating to the 2000s and the late 2010s, and with these data analyze ASL examples of syntactic structures outlined by Li and Thompson (1977) that led to the increased use of self as a copula. We also find that self, which is not generally regarded as a pointing sign, follows the grammaticalization scheme for pointing signs outlined by Pfau and Steinbach (2006), indicating that the scheme may be used for signs that are derived from demonstratives. Ultimately, we conclude that ASL undergoes the same grammaticalization processes as spoken languages.

JJ Lim is awarded a Social Science Research Council Graduate Research Fellowship

Graduate student JJ Lim was awarded the Social Science Research Council Graduate Research Fellowship (SSRC GRF) by the Singapore Social Science Research Council and the Singapore Ministry of Education for his project titled `Investigation of agreement markers across Mongolian’.
The fellowship consists of a research grant, mentorship by faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and an opportunity to visit Singapore to engage in research activities with NUS.

Recent publications

Mayberry, R. I. (2021). The radical idea that ASL is language: The linguistic bulwark of Professor Robert Hoffmeister’s vision. Foreword, in Enns, C., Henner, J., McQuarrie, L. (Eds.).  Discussing Bilingualism in Deaf Education: Essays in Honor of Robert Hoffmeister. Milton Park: Routledge.

Mayberry, R. I. & Wille, B. (2022). Lexical representation and access in sign languages.  In Anna Papafragou, John C. Trueswell & Lila R. Gleitman (Eds). The Oxford Handbook of the Mental Lexicon, pp. 597-614. DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198845003.013.27

Matchin, W.,  Ilkbasaran, D., Hatrak, M., Roth, A., Villwock, A., Halgren, E., & Mayberry, R.I. (2022). The cortical organization of syntactic processing is supramodal: Evidence from American Sign Language. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 34, 2:224-235. DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_01790

Semushina, N.& Mayberry, R. I. (2022) Number Stroop effects in Arabic Digits and ASL number signs: The Impact of age and setting of language acquisition, Language Learning and Development, DOI: 10.1080/15475441.2022.2047689

Anna Mai has a new publication in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Graduate student Anna Mai has a new paper with Tim Sainburg (Harvard Medical School) and Timothy Gentner (UC San Diego, Psychology) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, titled “Long-range sequential dependencies precede complex syntactic production in language acquisition.” The paper finds that infant vocalizations contain long-range sequential dependencies, a property previously assumed to derive primarily from the complex syntax of adult language use. A summary of the article can also be found on Twitter here.

3 faculty members presenting at WCCFL 40

Faculty members Andy Kehler, Sharon Rose, and Michelle Yuan are presenting at the 40th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 40), which is organized by the Linguistics Department at Stanford University and takes place virtually on May 13-15.

Andrew Kehler, In defense of referential theories of VP-ellipsis

Himidan Hassen (Independent scholar), Peter Jenks (University of California, Berkeley), Sharon Rose, A’-satisfaction with φ-interaction in Tira

Michelle Yuan, A pseudo-relative in Inuit

Tory Sampson attends Institute of the Inclusive Assessment of Multimodal Multilinguals (IAM3)

Graduate student Tory Sampson will be attending the Institute of the Inclusive Assessment of Multimodal Multilinguals (IAM3), a two-week program taking place this upcoming June at Stockholm University in Sweden, The program consists of daily seminars about issues related to translanguaging in deaf people as well as training workshops of online methodologies including eye tracking, ERP, and fMRI.

Nina Feygl Semushina and Rachel Mayberry have a new paper!

Alumna Nina Feygl Semushina (postdoc, Goldin-Meadow Laboratory, University of Chicago) and faculty member Rachel Mayberry have a new open-access paper in Language Learning and Development, titled “Number Stroop Effects in Arabic Digits and ASL Number Signs: The Impact of Age and Setting of Language Acquisition.”


Multiple studies have reported mathematics underachievement for students who are deaf, but the onset, scope, and causes of this phenomenon remain understudied. Early language deprivation might be one factor influencing the acquisition of numbers. In this study, we investigated a basic and fundamental mathematical skill, automatic magnitude processing, in two formats (Arabic digits and American Sign Language number signs) and the influence of age of first language exposure on both formats by using two versions of the Number Stroop Test. We compared the performance of individuals born deaf who experienced early language deprivation to that of individuals born deaf who experienced sign language in early life and hearing second language learners of ASL. In both formats of magnitude representation, late first language learners demonstrated overall slower reaction times. They were also less accurate on incongruent trials but performed no differently from early signers and second language learners on other trials. When magnitude was represented by Arabic digits, late first language learners exhibited robust Number Stroop Effects, suggesting automatic magnitude processing, but they also demonstrated a large speed difference between size and number judgments not observed in the other groups. In a task with ASL number signs, the Number Stroop Effect was not found in any group, suggesting that magnitude representation might be format-specific, in line with the results from several other languages. Late first language learners also demonstrate unusual patterns of slower reaction time for neutral rather than incongruent stimuli. Together, the results show that early language deprivation affects the ability to automatically judge quantities expressed both linguistically and by Arabic digits, but that it can be acquired later in life when language is available. Contrary to previous studies that find differences in speed of number processing between deaf and hearing participants, we find that when language is acquired early in life, deaf signers perform identically to hearing participants.