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Parameters of Predicate Fronting$
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Vera Lee-Schoenfeld and Dennis Ott

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197545553

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197545553.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 October 2021

Clause-initial Vs in sign languages: Scene-setters

Clause-initial Vs in sign languages: Scene-setters

(p.192) Chapter 8 Clause-initial Vs in sign languages: Scene-setters
Parameters of Predicate Fronting

Donna Jo Napoli

Rachel Sutton–Spence

Oxford University Press

In our study, we seek to determine for sign languages the conditions under which a predicate can precede all its arguments. We consider data from the sign languages of Australia, Brazil, Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden, examining interviews (informative dialogues) and narratives (monologues). While pressures of visualization converge to make SOV and SVO the unmarked orders in sign languages for most predicates, existential and presentational predicates may appear in sentence-initial position. In such instances, the predicate is a scene-setter, establishing a broad understanding of how we are to interpret the event we are about to visualize. We argue that pressures of visualization are again at work. Since sign languages are largely iconic – where the articulation itself brings up visual images – there is a stronger pressure for them to align articulation with mental visualization than for spoken languages; the goal of clear communication calls for this alignment whenever possible.

Keywords:   sign languages, semantics, iconicity, visualization, syntax

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