Interrogative marking in Chinese Sign Language
A preliminary corpus-based investigation
Little research has been conducted on interrogative constructions in Chinese Sign Language (CSL) based on naturalistic data. This paper presents a comprehensive investigation of CSL interrogative constructions. Based on findings from naturalistic data, both manual and non-manual components of these constructions are described and analyzed, revealing a complex system. Firstly, manual markers in content questions consist of two basic wh-signs, what and how-many, which form two series of wh-compounds for more specific information retrieval. As for the manual marking of CSL polar questions, three types of particles are attested, namely yes, a-not-a, and some negators.Non-manual markers work as interrogative markers in two ways: morphologically and prosodically. The former way is realized by mouthings, which can be equaled to suprasegmental markers like tones in spoken language. Prosodic non-manual marking is mainly realized by brow movement while head tilt, eye gaze, etc. are excluded as optional. Considering the spread of brow movement, we find that polar questions without particles are predominantly marked by brow raise spreading over the entire sentence, while in interrogatives with manual markers, brow movement seems to be optional, since its frequency is lower and its spreading behavior less regular. CSL is proposed to be a particle-rich sign language, and some speculations are offered on what may cause this behavior.
Keywords: Chinese Sign Language, interrogative, manual markers, non-manual markers, particles
Published online: 10 February 2020
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