Volume 23, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



We investigate how predicates expressing symmetry, asymmetry and non-symmetry are encoded in a newly emerging sign language, Central Taurus Sign Language (CTSL). We find that predicates involving symmetry (i.e., reciprocal and symmetrical actions) differ from those involving asymmetry (i.e., transitive) in their use of the morphological devices investigated here: body segmentation, mirror-image articulators and double perspective. Symmetrical predicates also differ from non-symmetrical ones (i.e., intransitive) in their use of mirror-image configuration. Furthermore, reciprocal actions are temporally sequenced within a linear structure, whereas symmetrical actions are not. Thus, our data reveal that CTSL expresses each type of action with a particular combination of linguistic devices to encode symmetry, asymmetry, and non-symmetry. Furthermore, differences in the use of these devices across age cohorts of CTSL suggest that some have become more conventionalized over time. The same semantic distinctions have been observed – though with different realization – in another emerging sign language, Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL). This converging suggests that natural human language learning capacities include an expectation to distinguish symmetry, asymmetry and non-symmetry.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Benedicto, Elena & Diane Brentari
    2004 Where did all the arguments go?: Argument-changing properties of classifiers in ASL. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory22(4). 743–810. 10.1007/s11049‑003‑4698‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-003-4698-2 [Google Scholar]
  2. Börstell, Carl
    2017Object marking in the signed modality: verbal and nominal strategies in Swedish Sign Language and other sign languages. Stockholm: Stockholm UniversityPhD dissertation. 10.1075/sll.00005.bor
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sll.00005.bor [Google Scholar]
  3. Börstell, Carl, Ryan Lepic & Gal Belsitzman
    2016 Articulatory plurality is a property of lexical plurals in sign language. Lingvisticæ Investigationes39(2). 391–407. 10.1075/li.39.2.10bor
    https://doi.org/10.1075/li.39.2.10bor [Google Scholar]
  4. Dimitriadis, Alexis
    2008 Irreducible symmetry in reciprocal constructions. InEkkehard Konig & Volker Gast (Eds.), Reciprocals and reflexives: Theoretical and typological explorations, 5–39. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Dowty, David R.
    1979Word meaning and Montague grammar: the semantics of verbs and times in generative semantics and in Montague’s PTO. Dordrecht: Reidel. 10.1007/978‑94‑009‑9473‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-9473-7 [Google Scholar]
  6. Dudis, Paul
    2004 Body partitioning and real-space blends. Cognitive Linguistics15(2). 223–238. 10.1515/cogl.2004.009
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cogl.2004.009 [Google Scholar]
  7. Ergin, Rabia
    2017Central Taurus Sign Language: a unique vantage point into language emergence. Medford: Tufts UniversityPhD dissertation.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Ergin, Rabia & Diane Brentari
    2017Hand shape preferences for nouns and verbs in Central Taurus Sign Language. InMaria LaMendola & Jennifer Scott (Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 222–235. Medford, MA: Cascadilla Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Ergin, Rabia, Irit Meir, Deniz Ilkbaşaran, Carol Padden & Ray Jackendoff
    2018 The development of argument structure in Central Taurus Sign Language. Sign Language Studies18(4). 612–639. 10.1353/sls.2018.0018
    https://doi.org/10.1353/sls.2018.0018 [Google Scholar]
  10. Ergin, Rabia, Ann Senghas, Ray Jackendoff & Lila Gleitman
    2018 Structural cues for symmetry, asymmetry, and non-symmetry in Central Taurus Sign Language. InProceedings of 12th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG XII).
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Evans, Nicholas
    2008 Reciprocal constructions: towards a structural typology. InEkkehard Konig & Volker Gast (Eds.), Reciprocals and reflexives: theoretical and typological explorations, 33–103. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Fillmore, Charles J.
    1972 Subjects, speakers, and roles. InDonald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (Eds.), Semantics of natural language, 1–24. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑94‑010‑2557‑7_1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-2557-7_1 [Google Scholar]
  13. Flaherty, Molly, Susan Goldin-Meadow, Ann Senghas, Marie Coppola & Lila Gleitman
    2013Animacy and verb classes in Nicaraguan Sign Language. Paper presented at the38th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston, MA.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Gleitman, Lila
    2017Takes two to tango. Paper presented at thethe 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, London, UK.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Gleitman, Lila, Henry Gleitman, Carol Miller & Ruth Ostrin
    1996 Similar, and similar concepts. Cognition58(3). 321–376. 10.1016/0010‑0277(95)00686‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(95)00686-9 [Google Scholar]
  16. Gleitman, Lila
    1965 Coordinating conjunctions in English. Language41(2). 260–293. 10.2307/411878
    https://doi.org/10.2307/411878 [Google Scholar]
  17. Haspelmath, Martin
    2007 Further remarks on reciprocal constructions. InVladimir P. Nedjalkov (Ed.), Reciprocal constructions, 2087–2115. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Hofherr, Patricia Cabredo & Brenda Laca
    2012Verbal plurality and distributivity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110293500
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110293500 [Google Scholar]
  19. König, Ekkehard
    2007 Basic patterns in a typology of reciprocity. Journées d’études sur la pluralité nominale et verbale. Retrieved fromarchive.sfl.cnrs.fr/sites/sfl/IMG/pdf/KoenigWSpl07.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  20. König, Ekkehard & Shigehiro Kokutani
    2006 Towards a typology of reciprocal constructions: Focus on German and Japanese. Linguistics44(2). 271–302. 10.1515/LING.2006.010
    https://doi.org/10.1515/LING.2006.010 [Google Scholar]
  21. Kuhn, Jeremy & Valentina Aristodemo
    2017 Pluractionality, iconicity, and scope in French Sign Language. Semantics and Pragmatics10. 1–49. 10.3765/sp.10.6
    https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.10.6 [Google Scholar]
  22. Labov, William
    1972Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Langacker, Ronald W.
    1987Foundations of Cognitive Grammar: theoretical prerequisites (Vol.1). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Loos, Cornelia
    2017The syntax and semantics of resultative constructions in Deutsche Gebärdensprache (DGS) and American Sign Language (ASL). Austin: University of Texas at AustinPhD dissertation. 10.1075/sll.00007.loo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sll.00007.loo [Google Scholar]
  25. Marchese, Lynell
    1986 The pronominal system of Godié. InUrsula Wieseman (Ed.), Pronominal systems, 217–256. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Meir, Irit
    2010 The emergence of argument structure in two new sign languages. InMalka R. Hovav & Edit Doron (Eds.), Lexical semantics, syntax and event structure, 101–113. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544325.003.0006
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544325.003.0006 [Google Scholar]
  27. Meir, Irit, Mark Aronoff, Carl Börstell, So-One Hwang, Deniz Ilkbasaran, Itamar Kastner, Ryan Lepic, Adi Lifshitz, Carol Padden & Wendy Sandler
    2017 The effect of being human and the basis of grammatical word order: Insights from novel communication systems and young sign languages. Cognition158. 189–207. 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.10.011
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2016.10.011 [Google Scholar]
  28. Meir, Irit, Assaf Israel, Wendy Sandler, Carol Padden & Mark Aronoff
    2012 The influence of community on language structure: evidence from two young sign languages. Linguistic Variation12(2). 247–291. 10.1075/lv.12.2.04mei
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lv.12.2.04mei [Google Scholar]
  29. Meir, Irit, Carol Padden, Mark Aronoff & Wendy Sandler
    2013 Competing iconicities in the structure of languages. Cognitive Linguistics24(2). 309–343. 10.1515/cog‑2013‑0010
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2013-0010 [Google Scholar]
  30. 2007 Body as subject. Journal of Linguistics43(3). 531–563. 10.1017/S0022226707004768
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226707004768 [Google Scholar]
  31. Meir, Irit, Wendy Sandler, Carol Padden & Mark Aronoff
    2010 Emerging sign languages. InMarc Marschark & Patricia Elizabeth Spencer (Eds.), Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education, Vol.2, 267–280. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Morgan, Gary, Rosalind Herman & Bencie Woll
    2002 The development of complex verb constructions in British Sign Language. Journal of Child Language29(3). 655–675. 10.1017/S0305000902005184
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000902005184 [Google Scholar]
  33. Nedjalkov, Vladimir P.
    2007 Encoding of the reciprocal meaning. InVladimir P. Nedjalkov (Ed.), Reciprocal constructions, 147–207. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.. 10.1075/tsl.71.08ned
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.71.08ned [Google Scholar]
  34. Nedjalkov, Vladimir P., Emma Geniusiene & Zlatka Guentchéva
    2007Reciprocal constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.71
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.71 [Google Scholar]
  35. Nordlund, Sanna
    2019 Agent defocusing in two-participant clauses in Finnish Sign Language. Glossa4(1). 10.5334/gjgl.801
    https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.801 [Google Scholar]
  36. Oomen, Marloes
    2017 Iconicity in argument structure: Psych-verbs in Sign Language of the Netherlands. Sign Language & Linguistics20(1). 55–108. 10.1075/sll.20.1.03oom
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sll.20.1.03oom [Google Scholar]
  37. Pfau, Roland & Markus Steinbach
    2003 Optimal reciprocals in German Sign Language. Sign Language & Linguistics6(1). 3–42. 10.1075/sll.6.1.03pfa
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sll.6.1.03pfa [Google Scholar]
  38. 2016 Modality and meaning: Plurality of relations in German Sign Language. Lingua170. 69–91. 10.1016/j.lingua.2015.11.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2015.11.002 [Google Scholar]
  39. Polinsky, Maria
    1996 Situation perspective: on the relations of thematic roles, discourse categories, and grammatical relations to figure and ground. InAdele Goldberg (Ed.), Conceptual structure, discourse, and language, 401–419. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Sankoff, Gillian
    2018 Language change across the lifespan. Annual Review of Linguistics4(1). 297–316. 10.1146/annurev‑linguistics‑011817‑045438
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011817-045438 [Google Scholar]
  41. Senghas, Ann, Sotaro Kita & Asli Özyürek
    2004 Children creating core properties of language: Evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua. Science305(5691). 1779–1782. 10.1126/science.1100199
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1100199 [Google Scholar]
  42. Senghas, Ann, Marie Coppola, Elissa Newport & Ted Supalla
    1997 Argument structure in Nicaraguan Sign Language: the emergence of grammatical devices. InElizabeth Hughes, Mary Hughes & Annabel Greenhill (Eds.), Proceedings of the 21st Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Medford, MA: Cascadilla Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Talmy, Leonard
    2000Towards a cognitive semantics: Typology and process in concept structuring. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Tversky, Amos & Itamar Gati
    2004 Studies of similarity. InEldar Shafir (Ed.), Preference, belief, and similarity. Selected writings of Amos Tversky, 75–95. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Zeshan, Ulrike & Sibaji Panda
    2011 Reciprocal constructions in Indo-Pakistani Sign Language. InNicholas Evans, Alice Gaby, Stephen Levinson & Asifa Majid (Eds.), Reciprocals and semantic typology, 91–113. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.98.05zes
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.98.05zes [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): asymmetry; emerging sign language; non-symmetry; symmetry
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error