Universal quantification in the nominal domain in American Sign Language

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2017-10-26

Authors

Liskova, Elena Igorevna

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Abstract

While quantification in American Sign Language (ASL) has been an object of linguistic investigation for more than two decades, there are still relatively few studies on that topic. Most crucially, detailed descriptions of many aspects of quantification in ASL are still lacking.

This dissertation is a description of universal quantification in the nominal domain in ASL. Using data I collected from eight deaf native ASL signers, I report various lexical, morphological, and syntactic strategies that signers use to encode universal quantification. These strategies include explicit marking of quantification by means of lexical universal quantifiers and aspectual marking on directional verbs. In addition, I describe universal interpretations in sentences with definite plural and mass noun phrases and in sentences with predicates conveying total affectedness of the patient/theme argument.

Focusing further on ASL lexical quantifiers, I provide a detailed description that addresses variation in forms, morphological properties, and syntax. This description is further supplemented by the discussion of possible historical sources of ASL universal quantifiers and the place of non-native quantificational expressions in the lexicon. From a typological perspective, I discuss modality-independent and modality-specific properties that explain the distribution of universal quantifiers in ASL. In particular, I consider distributivity, interaction with the semantics of nouns, and the role of space.

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