Syntactic Correlates of Brow Raise in ASL
Previous approaches to explaining brow raise behavior in American Sign Language (ASL) have claimed that it performs a semantic or pragmatic function, such as indicating that information is presupposed, given, or otherwise not asserted. However we show that this explanation cannot be extended to all the data. The commonality among all the structures that have ‘br’ marking is that the ‘br’ shows up in A'-positions associated with [-wh] operator features. These operators are semantically restrictive. Furthermore, the domain of ‘br’ spreading is the checking domain of the [-wh] feature, in contrast with c-command domain associated with [+wh] and [+neg] features. The three distinctive ASL brow positions, raised, furrowed, and neutral, are each associated with a different operator situation, [-wh], [+wh], and none, respectively. In sum, ‘br’-marking is clearly associated with syntactic structures that are related only indirectly with specific semantic, pragmatic, or discourse factors.
Keywords: American Sign Language, nonmanuals, focus constructions, conceptual-interpretation interface
Published online: 01 January 2000
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