Volume 23, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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We analyze sign locations in 776 signs from 16 antonym pairs across 27 sign languages to examine metaphorical mappings of emotional valence (positive vs. negative) along different spatial axes. We conduct both an automatic and a manual analysis of sign location and movement direction, to investigate cross-linguistic patterns of spatial valence contrasts. Contrary to our hypothesis, negative valence concepts are generally articulated higher up than their positive counterparts. However, when we consider movement in space, we find that although signs generally move downward over time, positive valence concepts are associated with upward movements more often than their negative counterparts. This points to a systematic pattern for vertical valence contrasts – a known metaphor across languages – iconically mapped onto physical sign articulation. We similarly, but surprisingly, find a difference in movements along the sagittal axis, such that outward movement is associated with positive valence concepts more often than negative.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): antonymy; iconicity; phonology; sign languages; spatial metaphor; typology
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