Nonmanuals, semantic operators, domain marking, and the solution to two outstanding puzzles in ASL

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This paper provides an analysis of certain nonmanuals from a semantic perspective with respect to the different types of semantic operators they are associated with. The categories of operators include simple/monadic and tripartite/dyadic. This semantic analysis will explain different phonological spreading among upper face/head nonmanuals: negative headshake, brow lowering, and structurally varied use of brow raise. Negative headshake and [+wh]-question brow lowering spread over their c-command domain. However, brow raise does not spread over its c-command domain, and its spreading domain is harder to characterize. The operator analysis provides a coherent explanation for the spreading domain. This distinction underlies a new analysis of the derived sign understand′, and helps resolve two puzzling issues related to its use: (1) why it has brow raise; and (2) what position it occupies in CP. This solution offers additional evidence in support of the claim that ASL has the spec,CP on the left.


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