Cyclic Movement Primitives Underlying Two-Handed Alternating Signs In Signed Languages


  • Oksana Tkachman University of British Columbia
  • Gracellia Purnomo University of British Columbia
  • Bryan Gick University of British Columbia


sign language, movement primitives, two-handed balanced signs, central pattern generators


In speech, biomechanical constraints shape phonetics-phonology. For example, English /r/ variants are selected based on minimizing biomechanical effort [1] and a single motor action in the tongue may govern multiple speech events to improve movement efficiency [2]. We propose that signed languages are similarly constrained by biomechanics. Specifically, the present paper considers the hypothesis that otherwise unexplained universal aspects of sign languages can be understood as resulting from a preference for repeated alternating arm movements triggered by vestigial locomotor CPGs developed in human ancestors for quadrupedal locomotion. 

Author Biography

Oksana Tkachman, University of British Columbia

Linguistics, PhD candidate

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How to Cite

Tkachman O, Purnomo G, Gick B. Cyclic Movement Primitives Underlying Two-Handed Alternating Signs In Signed Languages. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 2019 Feb. 21 [cited 2024 Apr. 17];46(4):24-7. Available from:



Proceedings of the Acoustics Week in Canada

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