Morphology in Sign Languages: Theoretical Issues and Typological Contrasts

Autor/a: PFAU, Roland; STEINBACH, Markus
Año: 2023
Editorial: Wiley
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital




Sign languages show the same range of morphological processes as spoken languages. Linguistic research on many different sign languages has identified various kinds of inflectional and derivational processes. At the same time, morphological processes in sign languages are subject to modality-specific properties not found in spoken languages. The impact of the visual–spatial modality makes sign languages typologically more uniform than spoken languages. Three modality-specific properties are especially relevant for the discussion of sign language morphology: (i) the simultaneous realization of morphosyntactic features; (ii) the interaction of morphology with phonology in the overt realization of these features; and (iii) the impact of gestures on morphological processes. This entry does not provide a comprehensive survey of all morphological phenomena attested in sign languages. It discusses instead three prominent and well-investigated inflectional processes – agreement, classifiers and nominal plural – and shows how different generative theories (minimalist program, Distributed Morphology, and Optimality Theory) can account for the modality-independent as well as for the modality-specific properties of inflection in sign languages. Still, we also point out that classical generative theories developed for spoken languages probably need to be supplemented by a gestural component to account for the impact of gestures on sign language morphology. The main goal of this entry is to exemplify how far morphological processes in sign languages can contribute to a broader understanding of morphological typology and theory.