Sign Language Syntax from a Formal Perspective: Selected Papers from the 2012 Warsaw FEAST
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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This paper reconsiders arguments suggesting that sign language analyses must proceed differently to take into account their gestural, iconic origins. Lillo-Martin & Meier (2011) argue that agreement is ‘person marking’, shown by directionality. Liddell (2003, 2011) argues that directional verbs move between locations associated with referents; given an infinite number of points, the forms of these verbs are unlistable, and therefore just gestural indicating; he claims that this makes sign languages different from spoken languages, a position that I will argue against. In their response, Lillo-Martin & Meier then agree that real-world referent locations are not part of grammar, so language must interface closely with the gestural system. In contrast, Quer (2011) argues that Liddell’s reasoning is flawed. I will present evidence to agree with Quer and argue that the linguistic discussion was prematurely derailed by noting the recent alternate analysis offered by Gökgöz (2013). There may well be a role for visual iconicity in relation to sign language structure, as demonstrated by Schlenker (2013a,b), but unless we pursue linguistic analysis further, we will never get a clear understanding of what that role is.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): contextual effects; gesture; iconicity; listability; operators; pointing; syntax; verb agreement
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