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On the cardinal system in Italian Sign Language (LIS)



This paper offers a comprehensive discussion of the cardinal numeral system of Italian Sign Language. At the lexical level, we present the different formational strategies used to generate cardinal numerals and we provide evidence that in the younger generations of signers, the sign one has lost the function of indefinite determiner and is now used as a cardinal only. At the syntactic level, we show that the attested variation in the ordering between the cardinal and the noun is in part due to definiteness and contrastive focus. We account for this variation within the cartographic approach to syntax. Finally, we offer a principled explanation for the reason why cardinals inside Measure Phrases are not subject to word order variation, but always precede the measure noun.


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Author’s address: Ca’Bembo, Fondamenta Tofetti, Dorsoduro 1075, 30123 Venezia,
Author’s address: Institut Jean Nicod, Pavillon Jardin, Ecole Normale Supérieure 29, rue d’Ulm, F-75005 Paris,
Author’s address: Ca’Bembo, Fondamenta Tofetti, Dorsoduro 1075, 30123 Venezia,


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We would like to thank the three anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees, whose comments helped to improve and clarify this manuscript. Many thanks are due to Rosella Ottolini, Mirko Santoro, and Gabriele Caia for their contribution as informants. We wish to express a sincere thank you to Jeremy Kuhn for his diligent proofreading of the manuscript. Parts of this work were presented at FEAST 2014 in Venice, at the workshop SignNonmanuals held in Klagenfurt in 2014, and at the workshop Numerals at the 48th Annual Meeting of SLE, held in Leiden in 2015. We thank the audiences of these conferences for their comments. The research received support from the SIGN-HUB project (European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program, Grant Agreement N° 693349).



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