Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Roland Pfau - Sign Language Negation: From Typology to Theory

In this course, participants will be familiarized with the expression of sentential negation in natural sign languages. All sign languages studied to date employ manual negative signs as well as non-manual markers (mostly, a headshake) to encode negation. The distribution of both types of elements, however, differs from sign language to sign language. For instance, in some sign languages, the use of a manual negator is obligatory, while in others, sentences are commonly negated by a non-manual marker only. We will sketch the attested typological variation and also relate it to typological patterns described for spoken languages. Moreover, we will discuss how the patterns can be accounted for in a formal model that assumes the existence of a negative phrase and (un)interpretable features associated with negative elements.
Familiarity with the basics of sign language linguistics is not assumed; the relevant concepts will be introduced in the first meeting.