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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 29, 2014

Necessity and possibility modals in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras)

  • André Nogueira Xavier EMAIL logo and Sherman Wilcox
From the journal Linguistic Typology


This article reports the results of a study of necessity and possibility modals in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras). The data discussed here mainly come from an interview carried out with a fluent deaf Libras signer. Our analysis suggests that the Libras modals we elicited have a lexical source with a more concrete meaning (Bybee 1994 et al.) and, in some cases, can have their origin traced back to a gesture, as has been demonstrated for ASL (Wilcox & Shaffer 2006). It also suggests, based on synchronic polysemy, that modals in Libras have developed through the same grammaticization processes observed for spoken languages. The results, coming from a language in the signed modality, contribute to our understanding of the truly typologically universal paths of grammaticization and the semantic domain of modality.

Received: 2013-7-6
Revised: 2014-7-7
Published Online: 2014-11-29
Published in Print: 2014-12-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston

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