Marloes Oomen, PhD candidate at the UvA, is the guest speaker at the ACLC seminar on 24 January 2020 from 16:15 until 17:30 . Her talk will be about ‘Iconicity as a mediator between verb semantics and morphosyntactic structure: A corpus-based study on verbs in German Sign Language’. A sign language interpreter will be present.
Iconicity as a mediator between verb semantics and morphosyntactic structure: A corpus-based study on verbs in German Sign Language
In this talk, I present the key outcomes of my recently-completed and soon-to-be-defended dissertation entitled Iconicity as a mediator between verb semantics and morphosyntactic structure: A corpus-based study on verbs in German Sign Language.
In many sign languages around the world, some verbs express grammatical agreement with not just one but two arguments, while other verbs do not express agreement at all. Moreover, and rather strikingly, there is a remarkable degree of overlap across sign languages between verbs that possess agreement properties in terms of their semantics. It has been suggested that iconicity, a resemblance between linguistic form and meaning, has some part to play in this, as there is the potential for aspects of verb meaning to be iconically represented in a verb’s form.
In my dissertation, I investigate how semantics and morphosyntactic structure interact in constructions containing verbs with different agreement properties in German Sign Language (DGS), using naturalistic dialogues between signers from the DGS Corpus as the primary data source.
I show that certain semantic properties, which are also known to govern transitivity marking in spoken languages, are predictive of verb type in DGS – where indeed systematic iconic mappings are shown to play a mediating role. The results enable the formulation of cross-linguistic predictions about the interplay between verb semantics and verb type in sign languages.
An analysis of a range of morphosyntactic properties of different verb types subsequently leads up to the conclusion that even ‘plain’ verbs, in fact, grammatically agree with their arguments. This in turn motivates a unified syntactic analysis of constructions with verbs that do and do not overtly express agreement. As such, I present a novel solution to the typological puzzle that only a (partially) semantically definable subset of verbs in sign languages agree.
Please note that the customary ACLC drinks will not take place after this lecture.