In spoken languages, focus (i) is normally realized by phonological prominence, which in English is effected by higher pitch, greater loudness, and longer duration (e.g., Katz and Selkirk 2011). Semantically, it (ii) signals the activation of alternatives (e.g., Rooth 1996) and (iii) has diverse effects, ranging from contrastive (as in (1a)) to exhaustive (as in (1b)).1

Finally, it has been speculated that (iv) the realization of focus is driven by a biological ‘‘effort code’’ whereby greater pitch excursions (and thus greater effort on the speaker’s part) are associated with greater emphasis/importance (Gussenhoven 2001, 2004).2

Following Wilbur (2012), as well as Crasborn and Van der Kooij (2013) and Kimmelman (2014), we argue that versions of all four properties hold of focus in American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signes Français (LSF), which suggests that focus has a...

You do not currently have access to this content.