Nathan Sanders

Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Linguistics, Haverford College
with joint appointments at Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore College

Visiting Scholar
Department of Psychology, Swarthmore College
Dan Grodner (sponsor)


office:209 Stokes Hall
hours:Mon/Wed 11am–1pm
phone: 610-896-1703 (shared)

Research Interests

I am interested in phonology, especially its interface with phonetics and morphology; sign language phonetics; derivational opacity; linguistic typology; ludlings (language games, like Pig Latin); constructed languages (like Esperanto and Klingon), especially their use as an educational tool; Polish and Slavic phonology; historical phonology; mathematical and statistical models of linguistic phenomena; and in general, the physical, biological, and cognitive factors that shape language.

I've most recently been working on the phonetics of more than two dozen sign languages and the effects of prosody on eye gaze in reading tasks in English.


Fall 2016:
LING H113: Introduction to Syntax (Haverford)
LING B101: Introduction to Linguistics (Bryn Mawr)

Spring 2017:
LING H115: Phonetics and Phonology (Haverford)
LING S001: Introduction to Linguistics (Swarthmore)

other courses taught:
semantics, historical linguistics, linguistic typology and constructed languages, research methods


SB in Mathematics, minor in Linguistics, MIT (1996)
MA and PhD in Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz (2000, 2003)

Recent Work

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. Revised and under review. A cross-linguistic preference for torso stability in the lexicon: Evidence from 24 sign languages. Sign Language and Linguistics.

Sanders, Nathan. 2017 (expected). A modular introduction to phonetics and phonology [tentative title]. Textbook contracted with Oxford University Press.

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Signs of efficiency: Effort reduction in conversation and the lexicon. Forthcoming invited talk at the University of Delaware.

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Constructed languages as a bridge to interdisciplinary teaching. Forthcoming presentation in the Teaching Linguistics with Invented Languages organized session. The 91st Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America.

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2016. Signs of efficiency: Maintaining torso stability affects sign language vocabulary. Natural History 124(9). 28–32.

Sanders, Nathan. 2016. Constructed languages in the classroom. Language 92(3). e192–e204. [ Project MUSE ]

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2016. Reactive effort as a factor that shapes sign language lexicons. Language 92(2). 275–297. [ Project MUSE ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2016. nslxIPA. Unicode IPA keyboard layout and documentation. v1.0. [ website ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2015. Active and reactive effort in sign language phonetics. Invited talk for the Tri-Lo Linguistics Lecture Series at Swarthmore College. [ PDF (slides) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2014. Active and reactive effort in sign language phonetics. Invited talk given at the University of Georgia. [superseded by Sanders 2015]

Sanders, Nathan. 2014. Gradient (dis)harmony: Hidden harmony and anti-harmony. Poster presented at Phonology 2014 (Annual Meetings on Phonology), Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [ PDF (mini-paper) ] [ PDF (poster) ]

Napoli, Donna Jo, Nathan Sanders, and Rebecca Wright. 2014. On the linguistic effects of articulatory ease, with a focus on sign languages. Language 90(2). 424–456. [ Project MUSE ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2006/2014. OTtablx. LaTeX software package and documentation. v0.4. [ website ]


  • games
  • TV shows
  • photography
  • Other Links

  • older work
  • my full CV (PDF)
  • OTtablx (beta version), LaTeX package for drawing OT tableaux
  • nslxIPA, keyboard layout for IPA symbols on Macs
  • Language Log, a linguistics blog
  • Jonathan Dowse's awesome clickable IPA chart
  • linguistics majors at Williams College