Locative Relations in American Sign Language: Word Formation, Syntax, and Discourse

J. A. Shepard-Kegl, 1985

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This thesis investigates the role of motino and location in the grammar of American Sign Language and the degree to which motion/location relations lie at the heart of all grammatical systems, particularly those components concerned with thematic relations.

Chapter 1 presents an overview of spatial notions and the role they play in various analyses of spoken language.  The claim that languages may exhibit certain sublexical regularities with respect to lexico-semantic primitives such as motion and location forms is distinguished from a theory of lexical decomposition.

Chapter 2 introduces the notational system used in the thesis by examining in detail a series of complex signs which are near minimal pairs with respect to their structural properties and the formatives which comprise them.

Chapter 3 presents a systematic introduction to the ASL lexicon first in schematic terms and later by an examination of the ASL verb system.

Chapter 4 argues for a level ordered, category neutral X-bar account of ASL word formation.  Two levels are proposed which differ only on the basis of the position at which their heads occur.  Stipulation of head position is shown to eliminate any rule specific statement concerning the ordering of combined elements.

Chapter 5 discusses several issues concerning the role of thematic relations internal to lexical items as well as cases in which thematic positions internal to words appear to be linked with syntactic arguments theta-marked for the same role.  A model of word internal theta-role assignment is proposed.

Chapter 6 examines the locative basis of co-reference relations in ASL  and the overt co-indexing relationships between discourse NPs, syntactic arguments, case marking clitics and a set of locative agreement markers on the verb.  Case relations and theta-roles are shown to be marked by two distinct types of markers which exhibit interestingly different properties with respect to co-indexing relations.

Thesis Supervisors:       Noam Chomsky, James Higginbotham, Wayne O"Neil, John Ross

Titles:                           Institute Professor, Associate Professor of Linguistics and

Philosophy, Professor of Linguistics, Professor of Linguistics

Table of Contents

Chapter 1         Spatial Notinos and Their Role in Language

            1.1       Sublexical complexity                                                                            13

                        1.1.1    Lexical decomposition                                                  22

                        1.1.2    Lexico-semantic primitives                                                        28

            1.2       Thematic relations                                                                                 34

            1.3       The locative hypothesis                                                             47

                        1.3.1    Figurative extension                                                                  60

                        1.3.2    Problems with semantic representations                         68

Chapter 2         Introduction to a Locative Based Notational System

            2.1       Introduction                                                                                          77

            2.2       Problems with glossing notation                                                 84

            2.3       Prose description of a single sign: give                                       86

            2.4       Comparison and contrast of morphologically related signs                      103

                        2.4.1    Move vs. carry-by-hand                                                           106

                        2.4.2    Give vs. carry-by-hand                                                 107

                        2.4.3    Carry-by-hand vs. hand-over vs. give                                       108

                        2.4.4    Give vs. give-out                                                                       109

                        2.4.5    Inform vs. give-out                                                                    111

            2.5       A closer look at inform: evidence of compounding                                 112

                        2.5.1    An extensional marker for the cognition class: know                   113

                        2.5.2    Evidence from two handed variants of inform                 118

                           The symmetry problem                                     118

                           The body anchoring problem                                         126

                           The triple agreement problem                                        128

            2.6       Conclusion                                                                                           135

Chapter 3         An Introduction to the ASL Lexicon

            3.1       A schematic introduction to the ASL lexicon                                          151

            3.2       Part I: A schematic introduction to sign structure                                    152

                        3.2.1    The simple sign                                                             153

                        3.2.2    Complex signs                                                                          163

                           Singly occurring elements which appear to occur

twice                                                                            164

                           Actual doubly occurring elements                                  171

                                                Two argument complex words:

(source/goal words)                              171

                                                Negated words                         174

            3.3       Part II: Introduction to the data -- ASL verbs                                        183

                        3.3.1    Simple verbs                                                                             183

                           Motion verbs                                                                184

                           Location verbs                                                              190

                           Negated verbs                                                              200

                        3.3.2    Complex verbs                                                             221

                           Combinations excluded by the thematic coherence

principle                                                                       223

                           Exclusion of locatives as members of the set of

complex verbs                                                              226

                           Restriction of complex verbs to combinatin of

FROM and TO                                                            229

                           Distinguishing compound fron complex words    234

                                                Characteristics of compounds               236

                                                         Clitic movement                        237

                                                         Conditions of the co-

occurrence of clitics with

verbs                                        239

                                                         Stress assignment                      246

                                                Characteristics of complex verbs           247

                                                         Complex verbs obey the

thematic coherence principle     248

                                                         The salience of paths                 252

                                                Two verb sequences with verb

chaining                                                253

                        3.3.3    Summary                                                                                  258

Chapter 4         Word Formation: Approximations Toward and Analysis

            4.1       Root and stem formation                                                                       269

                        4.1.1    An ML-template approach                                                       271

                           Root formation; an ML-template approach                    272

                           Stem formation: an ML-template approach                    277

                        4.1.2    A level ordering account                                                           285

                           Base formatino and its consequences                             292

                           Two analyses contrasted                                               293

                           Summary discussion                                                      327

                                                C-command in lexical

representations                         328

                                                Lexically specified reference to head

position                                                329

            4.2       Two remaining issues                                                                            331

                        4.2.1    The FROM vs. TO distinction                                       332

                        4.2.2    The position of the classifier affix                                               348

            4.3       Conclusion                                                                                           356

Chapter 5         Thematic Relations

            5.1       Thematic relations in the lexicon                                                            359

                        5.1.1    Determination and assignment of word internal theta-roles          360

                           Theta-role assignment                                                   360

                           Sublexical theta-role assignment                                    363

                        5.1.2    Word recursion within the theme slot                                         366

                           Co-occurrence of classifier clitics with embedded

themes                                                                          367

                           The lexical integrity of embedded themes                       373

                           Idiomatic properties of embedded themes                     376

            5.2       Thematic relations in the syntax                                                 382

                        5.2.1    Source/goal vs. subject/object agreement                                  393

                           The backwards verb illusion                                          398

                           Non-arguments against a source/goal agreement            401

                                                The agreement marker omission

argument                                              403

                                                The invite argument                               407

                           Evidence in favor of source/goal agreement: verb

doubling                                                                       409

                        5.2.2    Causative marking and the construal of agency              424

            5.3       Conclusion                                                                                           453

Chapter 6         Case Marking and Co-reference relations

            6.1       Clitics and themes                                                                                 461

                        6.1.1    Distinguishing clitics from overt pronouns and anaphors  464

                        6.1.2    Distinguishing clitics from inflectional affixes                   471

                        6.1.3    The LOCI marker                                                                    472

            6.2       Typological parameters and empty categories                            480

            6.3       Conclusion                                                                                           492