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Signing not (or not): A typological perspective on standard negation in Sign Language of the Netherlands

Marloes Oomen and Roland Pfau
From the journal Linguistic Typology

Abstract

The expression of standard negation by means of manual and/or non-manual markers has been described for a considerable number of sign languages. Typological comparisons have revealed an intriguing dichotomy: while some sign languages require a manual negative element in negative clauses (manual-dominant sign languages), in others negation can be realized by a non-manual marker alone (in particular a headshake; non-manual-dominant sign languages). We are here adding data from Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) to the picture, and we demonstrate that NGT belongs to the latter group. Still, detailed comparison suggests that NGT patterns differently from other non-manual-dominant sign languages, thereby improving our understanding of the typological variation in this domain. A novel contribution of the present study is that it is based on naturalistic corpus data, showing more variation than often found in elicitation and grammaticality judgment studies of sign languages, but also presenting new problems of interpretation.

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this study have been presented at Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory (FEAST 2014) in Venice and at the Workshop on Negation (2015) in Göttingen. We are grateful to the audiences for their questions and remarks. Moreover, we are indebted to three anonymous reviewers whose comments helped us improve the paper. Finally, a special thanks to Frans Plank for his advice and encouragement. Marloes Oomen’s work on this project has been supported by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), grant PR-14-15; Roland Pfau’s work has been supported by a Horizon2020 (Reflective Society) grant from the European Commission (grant no. 693349).

Abbreviations

1/3

1st/3rd person

du

dual

incl

inclusive

indef

indefinite

m

masculine

neg

negation

sg

singular.

Sign language acronyms: Some of the acronyms that are commonly used in the sign language literature are based on the name of the sign language in the respective spoken language; in this case, we also provide this name:

ASL

American Sign Language

CSL

Chinese Sign Language

DGS

German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensprache)

DSL

Danish Sign Language

HKSL

Hong Kong Sign Language

IUR

Inuit Sign Language (Inuit Uukturausingit)

LIS

Italian Sign Language (Lingua Italiana dei Segni)

LIU

Jordanian Sign Language (Lughat il-Ishaara il-Urdunia)

LSC

Catalan Sign Language (Llengua de Signes Catalana)

NGT

Sign Language of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal)

NZSL

New Zealand Sign Language

TİD

Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili)

VGT

Flemish Sign Language (Vlaamse Gebarentaal).

Appendix: Notational conventions

Manual signs

signSigns are glossed in small caps using English words which most closely reflect their meaning.
sign-signA hyphen indicates that two English words are necessary to gloss a single, non-complex sign (e.g., be-present).
sign^signA carat signals either cliticization (e.g., of a negative sign to a verb) or compounding (e.g., work^area); in both cases, phonological reduction and/or assimilation may apply.
indexxindex stands for an indexical pointing sign, which may be directed towards the signer’s body (subscript “1”), towards the addressee (“2”), or towards another present referent or locus of a non-present referent in the signing space (“3”).
Non-manual markers
xxxA line above a gloss indicates the scope (i.e., onset and offset) of a non-manual marker.
hsHeadshake, the non-manual marker of negation in NGT and many other sign languages.
y/nNon-manual marker accompanying yes/no-questions: usually brow raise, sometimes in combination with chin up or head forward.
negNon-manual marker of negation (in some of the examples from the literature); either a headshake only or a headshake in combination with other non-manual features.
topNon-manual marker accompanying topicalized constituents: brow raise, sometimes in combination with a specific head position.
bhtBackward head tilt (as marker of negation).

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Received: 2015-2-20
Revised: 2016-6-5
Published Online: 2017-7-6
Published in Print: 2017-7-26

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