Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

J. A. Bickford


Numeral incorporation is a moderately productive process in ASL which combines a numeral and a base to form a compounded fully formed sign. Numeral-incorporated signs involve some sort of simultaneity of the base and the numeral. I interviewed six individuals who use ASL as their primary language in order to gather examples of numeral-incorporated signs in ASL, thus getting a sampling of variation in the American deaf community.

Traditionally, numeral incorporation has been viewed as a process of combining a numeral sign with a noun, which I call a source sign. Instead, I found that the source signs are separate lexical items and are different than the bases used in numeral incorporation. While some of these source signs are homophonous with certain numeral-incorporated forms, others are different. Incorporation also occurs when the forms of the source and incorporated signs are different or when no source sign corresponds to the base.

Numeral-incorporated signs are formed from a numeral and a base. Some numeral-incorporated signs can be modified with additional derivational morphology while others cannot. Incorporated bases can be grouped into categories that have phonetic or semantic similarities. Also, the production of numeral-incorporated signs varies between signers and sometimes for one signer. The pronunciation of any one numeral-incorporated sign can vary in handshape, orientation, or movement. The numeral ranges for which

numerals can incorporate into numeral-incorporated signs also vary according to signer and according to the base.

Numeral-incorporated signs can be represented autosegmentally using Sandler's hand-tier diagrams. The hand-tier diagrams show the features of the numeral and the base as well as the resulting compound. The hand-tier diagrams can also show signer variation.