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Dr Anderson Almeida da Silva, Assistant Professor at Universidade Federal do Piauí, Parnaiba, is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar. He will talk about 'On the encoding of definiteness in two groups of signers of Brazilian Sign Language'. A sign language interpreter will be present.

Detail Summary
Date 28 February 2020
Time 16:15 - 17:30
Location P.C. Hoofthuis
Room 5.60


On the encoding of definiteness in two groups of signers of Brazilian Sign Language


For this study, I collected spontaneous and elicited data in order to find out how the two kinds of definiteness, i.e. weak and strong definiteness (Schwarz, 2013), are encoded in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras). Spontaneous data (collected from signing blogs) provided evidence that determiner phrases (DPs) in Libras are not always realized in the bare form. Rather, we find: bare nouns, dislocated bare nouns, nouns preceded by a pointing sign IX and nouns followed by IX. I hypothesized that the realizations involving IX signs could be a consequence of Portuguese influence, as they are often translated as ‘the N’ or ‘that N’. Thus, I expected that only those deaf who regard themselves as bilinguals would exhibit this pattern, with the overt realization of determiners.

In order to test this, I elicited data from 20 bilinguals (Portuguese and Libras frequent users) and 20 monolinguals (Libras frequent users), who participated in one production task and two comprehension tasks. The tests proposed by Gillon (2015) were adapted to Libras in order to confirm the existence of article-like items in the language. The production task consisted of telling a story based on a non-verbal stimulus, presented with specific methodological care, and aimed to capture how the contrast between novel and familiar referents is realized. The comprehension tasks consisted of two acceptability tests. The first set of sentences was used to find out whether the bare, the pre-IX or the post-IX DPs would be compatible with definite article functions and retrieve the anaphoric referents. The second set of sentences aimed to verify whether IX signs were acceptable in non-anaphoric contexts.

The results show that the bilingual grammar is on the way to a language of generalized determiners (Jenks, 2018), which can be used in both anaphoric (strong) and non-anaphoric (weak) contexts. Interestingly, the monolinguals behave differently, comparable to speakers of e.g. Mandarin, in that they employ exclusive marking for anaphoric (strong) contexts, but there is no evidence for an explicit D.

GILLON, Carrie. Investigating D in languages with and without articles. Methodology in Semantic Fieldwork, p. 175-205, (2015).
JENKS, Peter. Articulated definiteness without articles. Linguistic Inquiry, v. 49, n. 3, p. 501-536, (2018).
SCHWARZ, Florian. Two kinds of definites cross‐linguistically. Language and Linguistics Compass, v. 7, n. 10, p. 534-559, (2013).

P.C. Hoofthuis

Room 5.60

Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam

About the ACLC seminar series

The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, research school for linguistics of the Faculty of Humanities.