Frequency Characteristics of American Sign Language

When signers communicate with one another, they use some signs, such as finish, more frequently than others, such as eagle. The frequency of occurrence affects both the way that languages are processed and the way they change over time. It is important to be aware of the frequency characteristics of a language when pursuing either psycholinguistic or linguistic analyses. This article reports the findings of a pilot study of sign frequency in American Sign Language. A corpus of over four thousand signs was analyzed, and some of the frequency characteristics that were uncovered are reported here. Appendix 1 lists the most frequent signs in the database.