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Clausal Structure and a Tier for Grammatical Marking in American Sign Language

  • Debra Aarons (a1), Benjamin Bahan (a1), Judy Kegl (a2) and Carol Neidle (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 22 December 2008

Grammatical information in ASL can systematically be marked on the face. Such nonmanual marking extends over the c-command domain of the trigger, and therefore provides information about the hierarchical organization of the language. Consistent with evidence available from the distribution of non-manual markings—as illustrated with respect to wh-marking and negation—a basic clausal structure for ASL is proposed. Furthermore, we suggest, contrary to generally accepted claims about ASL, that both Tense and Agreement are structurally present in all ASL main clauses. This analysis allows for a uniform account of the licensing of null subjects in ASL. Evidence in favor of this analysis, and against a dual licensing mechanism (as proposed in Kegl, 1985, and Lillo-Martin, 1986, 1991b), is presented.

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L. Friedman 1975. Space, Time and Person Reference in ASL. Language 51, 940–61.

J.A. Kegl 1987. Coreference Relations in American Sign Language. In B. Lust (ed.), Studies in the Acquisition of Anaphora, Vol. II: pp. 135170. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

D. Lillo-Martin 1986. Two Kinds of Null Arguments in American Sign Language. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 4, 415444.

D Lillo-Martin . 1991b. Universal Grammar and American Sign Language. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

H. Poizner & J. Kegl 1992. The Neural Basis of Language and Motor Behavior: Perspectives from American Sign Language. Aphasiology 6, 219256.

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Nordic Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0332-5865
  • EISSN: 1502-4717
  • URL: /core/journals/nordic-journal-of-linguistics
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