Referential morphology in signed languages
McBurney, Susan Lloyd
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This thesis examines the use of space for reference in signed languages. In American Sign Language, as well as in all other signed languages that have been studied, locations in the signing space are used to represent entities in a discourse. It has been argued that these locations serve to mark person distinctions in both pronouns and agreement verbs. In this thesis I refute this position. Through a detailed comparison of person marking in spoken and signed languages, I highlight and discuss the ways in which sign language reference is quite distinct from person marking in spoken languages. Signed language referential morphology is characterized by the following: nonparadigmatic structuring, typological homogeneity, morphophonological exclusivity, and referential specificity. I argue that sign language reference does not rely on the grammatical category of person, but rather utilizes spatial deictics (i.e. demonstratives) to identify referents in a discourse.
- Linguistics