Article published in:Impersonal human reference in Sign Languages
Edited by Gemma Barberà and Patricia Cabredo Hofherr
[Sign Language & Linguistics 21:2] 2018
► pp. 232–256
R-impersonal interpretation in Italian Sign Language (LIS)
In this paper, we examine agent backgrounding in Italian Sign Language (LIS). Specifically, we are interested in identifying and describing the strategies used by LIS signers to reduce referentiality. On the basis of low-referential contexts (cf. questionnaire in the Introduction chapter), we recorded target sentences containing potential markers of agent backgrounding and asked three LIS native signers to provide felicity judgments on them using a 7-point scale. We discuss agent-backgrounding strategies of different types: (i) manual, (ii) non-manual, and (iii) syntactic. Overall, our study shows that the combination of raised eyebrows and mouth-corners down associated with the existential quantifier someone and the sign person makes the agent-backgrounding reading more prominent. Other strategies that can be used in LIS to reduce referentiality are free relatives, perspective shift, and null subject. We also investigate in more detail the semantic status of someone, person, and the null subject through well-established tests from the literature.
Keywords: Italian Sign Language, agent backgrounding, referentiality, impersonals, indefinite pronouns
Published online: 22 March 2019
Barberà, Gemma & Patricia Cabredo Hofherr
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