Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Widely accepted analyses of personal pronouns in sign languages present systems that differ in a crucial way from pronominal systems in oral languages and violate linguistic universals proposed by Benveniste, Bühler, Lyons, and others. These analyses argue that the two necessary conversational roles — sender and recipient — are not grammaticized in first and second person pronouns, respectively. This paper presents findings of a detailed analysis of pronominal reference in video-recorded, naturally occurring Brazilian Sign Language conversations which show consistent pairings of form and meaning. On this basis, I argue that the LSB personal pronoun system encodes the two necessary conversational roles. A re-examination of several ASL examples provides additional evidence. I conclude that, in LSB and ASL personal pronouns, space is only epiphenomenal, an idea first articulated by Padden (1990:118).


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