The point of agreement
Changing how we think about sign language, gesture, and agreement
This paper reconsiders arguments suggesting that sign language analyses must proceed differently to take into account their gestural, iconic origins. Lillo-Martin & Meier (2011) argue that agreement is ‘person marking’, shown by directionality. Liddell (2003, 2011) argues that directional verbs move between locations associated with referents; given an infinite number of points, the forms of these verbs are unlistable, and therefore just gestural indicating; he claims that this makes sign languages different from spoken languages, a position that I will argue against. In their response, Lillo-Martin & Meier then agree that real-world referent locations are not part of grammar, so language must interface closely with the gestural system. In contrast, Quer (2011) argues that Liddell’s reasoning is flawed. I will present evidence to agree with Quer and argue that the linguistic discussion was prematurely derailed by noting the recent alternate analysis offered by Gökgöz (2013). There may well be a role for visual iconicity in relation to sign language structure, as demonstrated by Schlenker (2013a,b), but unless we pursue linguistic analysis further, we will never get a clear understanding of what that role is.