Nathan Sanders

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


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, including American Sign Language, Italian Sign Language, Sri Lankan Sign Language, and Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language.


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

Spring 2017:
LING H115: Phonetics and Phonology (Haverford)
TBD (Swarthmore)

other courses taught:
semantics, historical linguistics, linguistic typology, 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. 2017 (expected). A modular introduction to phonetics and phonology [tentative title]. Textbook contracted with Oxford University Press.

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

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Constructed languages as a bridge to interdisciplinary teaching. 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 (in press). Signs of efficiency: Maintaining torso stability affects sign language vocabulary. Natural History 125(8). 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