Iconicity in argument structure
Psych-verbs in Sign Language of the Netherlands
A long tradition of psych-verb research in spoken languages has demonstrated that they constitute a class of their own, both semantically and syntactically. This study presents a description and analysis of psych-verbs in Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) in order to investigate whether this verb type displays comparable peculiarities in sign languages. The study is primarily based on data from the Corpus NGT (Crasborn et al. 2008). Firstly, the data indicate that all psych-verbs in NGT select a subject Experiencer. Secondly, it is shown that there is an iconic property of psych-verbs in NGT that lays bare a conceptual link between psychological states and locative relations: body-anchoring. The location singled out by the place of articulation of a psych-verb is associated with the metaphoric location of an emotion, or a type of behavior associated with the expression of an emotion. It is furthermore argued that the body as a whole iconically represents the container of a psychological state. The body is analyzed as a possessive determiner that may receive a first person specification as a consequence of body-anchoring. The data support such an analysis, as they suggest that sentences without an overt Experiencer yield a default first person interpretation. Thus, it is claimed that iconicity affects sentence structure and as such should be incorporated into the formal grammar system. Given that body-anchoring is the source of the effects mentioned above, it may be hypothesized that psych-verbs in NGT do not constitute a class of its own, but rather belong to a larger class of iconically motivated body-anchored verbs that share the properties mentioned above.
Keywords: psych-verbs, Experiencer, iconicity, body-anchoring, Sign Language of the Netherlands, corpus
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