The perception of stroke-to-stroke turn boundaries in signed conversation

Abstract

Speaker transitions in conversation are often brief, with minimal vocal overlap. Signed languages appear to defy this pattern with frequent, long spans of simultaneous signing. But recent evidence suggests that turn boundaries in signed language may only include the content-bearing parts of the turn (from the first stroke to the last), and not all turn-related movement (from first preparation to final retraction). We tested whether signers were able to anticipate ``stroke-to-stroke'' turn boundaries with only minimal conversational context. We found that, indeed, signers anticipated turn boundaries at the ends of turn-final strokes. Signers often responded early, especially when the turn was long or contained multiple possible end points. Early responses for long turns were especially apparent for interrogatives---long interrogative turns showed much greater anticipation compared to short ones.


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