Facial expression as intonation in Israeli Sign Language: the case of neutral and counterfactual conditionals

Año: 2008
Editorial: Hamburg: Signum, 2008
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos, Lingüística » Sistemas de transcripción de las Lenguas de Signos


The present paper demonstrates that Israeli Sign Language (ISL), like most languages of the world, can systematically distinguish between neutral and counterfactual conditionals. Although in the sign language literature only neutral conditionals have been described in detail (Liddell 1980, BakerShenk 1983, Reilly, McIntire and Bellugi 1990, Wilbur 1996), my study shows that Israeli Sign Language is capable of making a distinction between the two types of conditionals. This distinction is expressed by means of a device peculiar to sign language: neutral conditionals are systematically associated with raised brows, and counterfactuals with raised brows together with squinted eyes. Facial expressions have been compared, in both function and patterning, to intonation in spoken languages (Sandler 1999a,b, Nespor and Sandler 1999). The results of this study provide strong support for this view. Independent facial components marking the two types of conditionals can re-occur in a wide and varied range of constructions in ISL, contributing distinct, albeit general, pragmatic meanings to the overall interpretations of the utterances. In this way as well, they behave very much like tones in intonational systems of spoken languages. 

En: Quer, J. (ed.), Signs of the time: selected papers from TISLR 8, pp. 61-82.