A Featural Approach to Sign Language Negation

Chapter
Part of the Language, Cognition, and Mind book series (LCAM, volume 1)

Abstract

In all Sign Languages (SLs) studied to date, negation can be expressed by manual negative signs and by non-manual markers (mostly a headshake). The way these two types of markers interact, however, has been shown to be subject to cross-linguistic variation. In particular, in some SLs, the use of a manual negator is obligatory (e.g. Turkish SL, Italian SL), while in others, clauses are commonly negated by means of a non-manual marker only (e.g. German SL). Moreover, within both groups, some SLs allow for Negative Concord (NC) involving manual negators while others do not. We offer an account of the attested variation within a model that reduces typological differences in the area of sentential negation to differences in feature values associated with negative elements (Zeijlstra 2004). Applying Zeijlstra’s three-way typological distinction, we argue that German SL is a Strict NC language while Turkish SL can be classified as a Non-strict NC language. We further discuss the possibility that Italian SL exemplifies the third type, a Double Negation (DN) language, but conclude that this analysis is faced with empirical problems and that a SL of the DN type is yet to be identified.

Keywords

Typology Negative concord Double negation (Un)Interpretable feature Headshake German Sign Language Italian Sign Language Turkish Sign Language 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Capaciteitsgroep TaalwetenschapUniversiteit van AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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