Gebärdensprache in Göttingen

Call for Papers

Workshop: Sign language agreement revisited: new theoretical and experimental perspectives

Workshop at the Annual conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) 2016
Location: University of Konstanz
Date: February 23.-26.2016

Linguistic fields: Sign language linguistics, Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, Typology, Psycholinguistics, Grammaticalization

Invited speakers:

Richard Meier (The University of Texas, Austin)
Josep Quer (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)

Meeting description:

Research in the last 30 years has shown that agreement in sign languages differs in interesting ways from agreement in spoken languages (Lillo-Martin/Meier 2011, Mathur/Rathmann 2012). In the literature, various phenomena such as verb agreement, classifier constructions, or role shift have been subsumed under the notion of 'agreement'. It has been shown that agreement in sign language is subject to grammatical restrictions. At the same time, its gestural basis and typological uniformity have questioned the grammatical status of agreement in sign language. In each sign language, we find, for instance, similar distinctions between plain verbs, i.e. verbs that are lexically specified as non-inflectional, and agreement verbs, i.e. verbs that show inflection. Likewise, the system of classifiers seems to be very similar across sign languages. Moreover, agreement may systematically incorporate gestural components.
Recent empirical studies and theoretical discussions initiated a controversial debate about the grammatical status of agreement in sign languages and modality-specific properties such as the use of space, body as subject, incorporation of gestural components and the optionality of overt agreement marking (cf. e.g. Lillo-Martin/Meier 2011 and the comments on this paper, de Beuzeville et al. 2009, Hänel-Faulhaber et al. 2014). Likewise, studies on the origin of agreement show that at least three (possibly modality-specific) aspects are relevant for a better understanding of agreement in sign languages: (i) Sign languages seem to have the unique property to grammaticalize gestural elements. (ii) Plain verbs may develop into agreement verbs over time. (iii) Some sign languages have systematically developed specific agreement markers to fill the agreement gap with plain verbs (Pfau/Steinbach 2011).

This workshop aims at expanding our understanding on agreement in sign languages in particular and natural languages in general through different typological, experimental, corpus-based, and theoretical approaches and addresses both well-established researchers and young researchers. Submissions on but not limited to the following topics are invited:

  • Lexical, morphological, syntactic, and semantic properties of various kinds of agreement in sign languages
  • Typological variation of agreement (including standardized ('old') as well as young sign languages and 'village sign languages')
  • Modality-specific and modality-independent typological aspects
  • The formal analysis of different phenomena related to sign language agreement such as, for instance, verb-argument agreement or classifier agreement)
  • Grammatical and semantic restrictions of agreement (such as, for instance, specific phonological restrictions, animacy restriction, verb type, optionality)
  • Grammaticalization of agreement at the interface between gesture and sign language
  • New insights from experimental and acquisitional studies on sign language agreement
  • Corpus-based analyses of agreement phenomena in sign languages
  • Agreement verbs, classifiers, and role shift in complex sentence constructions and discourse

The languages of the workshop are English and ASL/IS. Interpretation between English and ASL/IS will be provided.

Abstract submission:

We invite submissions for 30 minutes (20+10) or 60 minutes (45+15) talks. Abstracts should be anonymous and not exceed one page, including title, text, examples and references. Please use Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5 line spacing and send your abstracts electronically in both a .pdf- and .txt-format (please use Unicode UTF-8) to

and include your name, affiliation and the title of the abstract in the body of the e-mail.

Please note that people are not supposed to present in more than one workshop at the DGfS annual meeting. If you get accepted in more than one workgroup, please inform the organizers of both workshops.

Deadline for abstract submission: August 15, 2015
Notification: September 1st, 2015

Workshop organizers:

Barbara Hänel-Faulhaber
Annika Herrmann
Christian Rathmann
Markus Steinbach


General information:


Important Dates:

August 15, 2015: Deadline of abstract submission
September 1, 2015: Notification of acceptance
December 15, 2015: Provisional program
February 23-26, 2016: 38th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) in Konstanz