This is the first comparative analysis of prosody in deaf, native-signing children (ages 5;0–8;5) and adults whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL). The goals of this study are to describe the distribution of prosodic cues during acquisition, to determine which cues across age groups are most predictive in determining clausal and prosodic boundaries, and to ascertain how much isomorphy there is in ASL between syntactic and prosodic units. The results show that all cues are acquired compositionally, and that the prosodic patterns in child and adult ASL signers exhibit important differences regarding specific cues; however, in all groups the manual cues are more predictive of prosodic boundaries than nonmanual markers. This is evidence for a division of labor between the cues that are produced to mark constituents and those that contribute to semantic and pragmatic meaning. There is also more isomorphy in adults than in children, so these results add to the debates about isomorphy, suggesting that while there is clear autonomy between prosody and syntax, productions exhibiting nonisomorphy are relatively rare overall.


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pp. e144-e168
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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