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Pronouns, agreement and classifiers: What sign languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and linguistic universals

Cormier, K; (2014) Pronouns, agreement and classifiers: What sign languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and linguistic universals. (Working Papers in Linguistics 26). UCL Psychology and Language Sciences: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

The search for linguistic universals (and understanding universals in the face of diversity) is one of the key issues in linguistics today. Yet the vast majority of the linguistic research has focused only on spoken languages. Sign languages constitute an important test case for theories on universals and diversity, since a language “universal” only deserves this name if it holds both for signed and spoken languages, and languages in a different modality surely have much to teach us about the full range of diversity within human language. In this paper I consider three morphosyntactic phenomena found in sign languages that have traditionally been assumed to be the same as spoken languages but which, on closer inspection, reveal some fundamental differences relating to particular affordances of the visual-spatial modality. In order to understand these differences in more detail, linguists must consider the multimodal nature of human language (including gesture) rather than just the classic linguistic characteristics which are the exclusive focus of much work in mainstream approaches to the study of language.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Pronouns, agreement and classifiers: What sign languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and linguistic universals
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/research/linguistics/li...
Language: English
Keywords: sign language, universal, pronoun, agreement, classifier, gesture
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127788
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