Diane Brentari

Diane Brentari

Professor, Department of Linguistics, and Humanities Collegiate Division
Rosenwald 205D
(773) 702-5725

Brentari has developed the Prosodic Model of sign language phonology. Currently her work addresses cross-linguistic variation particularly in the differences and similarities among sign languages in the formation of complex classifier predicates. She is also interested in how the mental lexicon emerges in historical time, which includes the relationship between gesture, homesign systems and well-established sign languages.

Recent Publications 


  • Brentari, D. 2010. (ed.) Sign Languages: A Cambridge Language Survey. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Brentari, D. 2001. (ed.) Foreign Vocabulary in Sign Languages: A Cross-linguistic Investigation of Word Formation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Brentari, D. 1998. A Prosodic Model of Sign Language Phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Lapointe, S., D. Brentari, and P. M. Farrell (eds.). 1998. Morphology and its Relation to Syntax and Phonology. Stanford University, CSLI Publications.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

  • Brentari, D., M. Coppola, L. Mazzoni, and S. Goldin-Meadow. 2012 (to appear).When does a system become phonological? Handshape production in gesturers, signers, and homesigners. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 30(1).
  • Brentari, D and P. Eccarius. 2012 (to appear). When does a system become phonological: Possible sources for phonological contrast in handshape. In H. van der Hulst and R. Channon, eds., Formational Units in the Analysis of Signs. Nijmegan: Ishara Press
  • Brentari, D. Sign Language Phonology. 2011 (to appear). In J. Goldsmith, J. Riggle, & A. Yu, eds., Handbook of Phonological Theory. New York/Oxford: Blackwells.
  • Brentari, D. 2011 (to appear). Sign language phonology: The word and sub-lexical structure.. In R. Pfau, M. Steinbach, & B. Woll, eds., Handbook of Sign Language Linguistics. Berlin:Mouton.
  • Brentari, D. 2011. Handshape in sign language phonology. In M. van Oostendorp C. Ewen, E. Hume, and K. Rice (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Phonology, 195 - 222. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  • Brentari, D., C. González, A. Seidl, and R. Wilbur. 2011. Sensitivity to visual prosodic cues in signers and nonsigners. Language and Speech, 54(1), 49-72.
  • Brentari, D. and P. Eccarius. 2010. Handshape contrast in sign languages. In D. Brentari, ed., Sign Languages, 284-311. Cambridge University Press.
  • Eccarius, P. and D. Brentari. 2010. A Formal Analysis of Phonological Contrast and Iconicity in Sign Language Handshapes. Sign Language and Linguistics, 13(2), 156-181.
  • Tang, G., D. Brentari, C. González, and F. Sze. 2010. Crosslinguistic variation in the use of prosodic cues: the case of blinks. In D. Brentari, ed., Sign Languages, 519-542. Cambridge University Press.
  • Eccarius, P. and D. Brentari. 2008. Handshape Coding Made Easier: A theoretically based notation for phonological transcription. Sign Language and Linguistics 11(1), 69-101.
  • Brentari, D. 2006. Effects of language modality on word segmentation: An experimental study of phonological factors in a sign language. In L. Goldstein, D. Whalen, and C. Best, eds., Papers in Laboratory Phonology VIII, 155-164. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Benedicto, E., and D. Brentari. 2004. Where did all the arguments go?: Argument-changing properties of Classifiers in ASL. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 22(4), 743-810.


The Sign Language Laboratory is directed by Diane Brentari and located in Walker 009 and the Landahl Center. It is designed to analyze linguistic data from sign languages pertinent to her ongoing research projects, which include: a cross-linguistic study of sign language classifiers, grammatical regularity in sign language and home sign, as well as a collaborative project on computer recognition of fingerspelling. Motion capture equipment is available, as well as a variety of tools for video analysis and transcription, such as video compression software, ELAN, QuickTime Professional and iMovie.

  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1990.