Causativity and Transitivity in Classifier Predicates in Tianjin Sign Language: A Case Study
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AbstractThis paper reports on a case study on the valency of argument structure in classifier predicates in Tianjin Sign Language. Benedicto and Breantari (2004) were among the first researchers who claimed that transitivity alternation exists in American Sign Language (ASL), just like other spoken languages such as English in the literature (Hale and Keyser 1993), through various diagnostic tests to detect both external and internal arguments in corresponding alternating predicates. The structure they focused on is classifier predicates, which are known to be morphologically complex. Specifically, they argued that there is a correspondence between types of classifier handshapes and argument structure: (a) Predicates with handling classifiers are transitive, which involve both an external and an internal argument; (b) Predicates with whole entity classifiers are intransitive unaccusative, which involve only one internal argument; and (c) Predicates with body part classifiers are intransitive unergative, which involve only one external argument. They proposed that classifier verbs such as “break” alternate between transitive causative predicates and intransitive unaccusative predicates, where a handling classifier handshape is adopted for the former and a whole entity classifier handshape for the latter. This empirical argumentation is based on a variety of syntactic tests targeting the internal as well as external arguments. Although problems remain open, this transitivity alternation has been successfully applied to Catalan Sign Language (LSC) and Argentina Sign Language (LSA) (Benedicto et. al 2007). Zwitserlood (2003) also reported the same finding in verbs of motion and location in Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT).
To check whether B & B’s claim holds crosslinguistically, a preliminary study has been conducted which targets the argument structure of classifier predicates in Tianjin Sign Language (TJSL). Since TJSL is not related to any of the sign languages mentioned above, empirical evidence of such existence would further strengthen the search for universality of B & B’s proposal. The research question in this study is: Can the correlation as reported in B&B (2004)
in ASL be applied to TJSL? Firstly, unlike ASL, the handling classifier verb “BREAK” in TJSL appears in transitive predicates, it does not necessarily indicate a result denoting something is broken. A diagnostic test targeting the result (Beavers 2012) as shown in example (1) was implemented and the result is negative.
All Author(s) ListHe Jia, Tang G
Name of Conference2018 Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory
Start Date of Conference18/06/2018
End Date of Conference19/06/2018
Place of ConferenceVenice
Country/Region of ConferenceItaly
Proceedings TitleFEAST. Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign language Theory
Year2018
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom

Last updated on 2018-10-12 at 09:35