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Thursday, October 10 • 2:55pm - 3:20pm
Montemurro et al.: Sign language spatial modulation across sociohiohistoric contexts

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Sign language spatial modulation across sociohiohistoric contexts

Three-dimensional space in sign language is used for marking location and  argument structure. Competing theoretical accounts debate the morphosyntactic status and categorization of verbs which interact in space (Liddell 2000, 2003 for morphemic gestural-deictic analysis, Padden 1983, Lillo-Martin & Meier 2011 for morphosyntactic agreement analysis). This paper analyzes both theoretical approaches from a perspective of variation, specifically in sociohistoric development in two sign languages, unifying both diachronic and synchronic evidence.   Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) emerged in the late 1970s with the opening of a deaf school in Managua (Senghas 2001, 2010). In contrast, American Sign Language (ASL) is well-established, dating back to the early 1800s. We propose that the primary function of spatial modification is location marking, and as additional devices (e.g. the use of space-anchored loci and role shift) develop and are layered onto the directional signs, distinctions between person and location arise.


Kathryn Montemurro

University of Chicago

Molly Flaherty

Swarthmore College

Marie Coppola

University of Connecticut

Susan Goldin-Meadow

University of Chicago

Diane Brentari

Univeristy of Chicago

Thursday October 10, 2019 2:55pm - 3:20pm PDT
EMU Crater Lake S
  T: Language change
  • Session type Talk
  • Chair: Ceil Lucas
  • Award Finalist: Lillian B. Stueber Prize