The unity of focus: Evidence from sign language (ASL and LSF)

Autor/a: SCHLENKER, Philippe; ARISTODEMO, Valentina; DUCASSE, Ludovic; LAMBERTON, Jonathan; SANTORO, Mirko
Año: 2016
Editorial: Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 47, nº 2 (2016) pp. 363–381
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


Following Wilbur (2012), as well as Crasborn and Van der Kooij (2013) and Kimmelman (2014), we argue that versions of all four properties hold of focus in American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signes Français (LSF), which suggests that focus has a unified semantics and to some extent a unified semantics/phonology interface across modalities; in particular, contrastive and exhaustive focus can be realized by the same prosodic means. Earlier studies emphasized the diversity of focus realization in ASL and the importance of syntactic movement (Wilbur 2012), which made it hard to isolate the role of prosody. By contrast, detailed production studies of Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) and Russian Sign Language (RSL) displayed in-situ strategies of (corrective and informational) focus marking involving modulations of sign speed, size, and duration, combined with nonmanual markers in NGT (Crasborn and Van der Kooij 2013, Kimmelman 2014; see also Kimmelman and Pfau to appear). We complement Wilbur’s findings by studying particularly simple paradigms in which movement is inapplicable, showing that in these cases ASL and LSF sign modulations and nonmanuals may also suffice to mark focus, with diverse semantic effects, ranging from contrastive to exhaustive, as in spoken language.