A cross-modality perspective on verbal agreement

Autor/a: MEIR, Irit
Año: 2002
Editorial: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Vol. 20 (2002) pp. 413-450
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


Verb agreement in sign languages (illustrated here by Israeli Sign Language, ISL) seems to differ greatly from that of spoken languages, as it seems to be thematically oriented and is realized morphologically only on a subset of verbs in the language. These properties present both typological and theoretical challenges, since agreement is generally regarded as a structural relation, realized morphologically as inflectional affixes on the verbal element. These challenges are addressed here by applying a particular componential analysis (along the lines of Jackendoff 1990) to the class of verbs which inflect for agreement in ISL. This analysis enables us to capture and explain the similarities as well as differences between the agreement systems of signed and spoken languages. It argues that agreement is basically a structural relation in languages in both modalities. The unique properties of sign language verb agreement are attributed to the difference in the agreeing element: verbs and auxiliaries in spoken languages vs. a spatial predicate in sign languages. These conclusions have some significant theoretical implications, both for capturing aspects of the interaction between modality and the structure of language, and for imposing restrictions on the structure of the lexicon.