Justin Power

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kathryn L. Hansen


This thesis presents aspects of handshapes in Afghan Sign Language [afg]. Afghan Sign Language is a Deaf sign language found in Afghanistan (Lewis, Simons, and Fennig 2014).

Signs in Afghan Sign Language contrast based on the handshape parameter. Furthermore, handshapes contrast based on selected fingers, thumb configuration, arrangement, and aperture. The thesis gives evidence for the selected fingers features [one], [two], [three], and [four]; for the thumb configuration features [opposed], [radial], and [contacting]; for the arrangement features [spread], [joined], and [crossed]; and for the aperture features [open] and [closed].

Of the 22 expected feature combinations, 18 are found in the data. The feature system presented here accounts for native handshapes in Afghan Sign Language. A minority of handshapes, six of 506 in the data, require extra features such as [middle] and [little] for the selected fingers and [extended] for the unselected fingers, as well as [bent]. Non-native handshapes such as those borrowed through the fingerspelling alphabet or from American Sign Language also require extra features. Factors such as movement, point of contact, and articulatory constraints account for differences between the underlying feature combinations and surface handshapes.