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Linguistic Typology

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Volume 21, Issue 1


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

Marloes Oomen
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics, University of Amsterdam, Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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/ Roland Pfau
Published Online: 2017-07-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0001


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.

Keywords: constituent order; featural affix; headshake; lexicon; manual vs. non-manual signs; negation; prosody; Sign Language of the Netherlands; syntax


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About the article

Received: 2015-02-20

Revised: 2016-06-05

Published Online: 2017-07-06

Published in Print: 2017-07-26

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology, Volume 21, Issue 1, Pages 1–51, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0001.

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