Vol. 25:1 (2022) ► pp.30–57
Sizing up adjectives
Delimiting the adjective class in American Sign Language
Adjectives are often identified via notional or even translational criteria in sign language research, which reflects a lack of formal criteria for identifying this part of speech in the field. This paper presents the results of a guided production task investigating the conservative hypothesis that ASL has a small, closed adjective class consisting only of terms for dimension, age, value, and color. Evidence from the syntactic distribution of these core properties compared to non-core properties will be presented to refute the initial hypothesis and show that ASL has an open adjective class. Its members are characterized by their ability to occur as prenominal modifiers without function-indicating morphosyntax. The semantic distinction between core and peripheral adjectives is nonetheless reflected in a significant preference for core adjectives to be used as modifiers rather than as sentential predicates. Postnominal property signs are analyzed as (in most cases) reduced relative clauses. I further suggest that prototypically verbal signs can be used as prenominal modifiers when they are embedded in reduced relative clauses.
- 2.What makes an adjective in ASL?
- 2.1Delimiting adjectives, morphologically
- 2.2Delimiting adjectives, syntactically
- 3.3Task and procedure
- 3.4Coding and analysis
- 4.1Semantic class and pragmatic function
- 4.2Semantic class and position within the DP
- 4.3Non-manual marking on postnominal modifiers
- 5.Discussion and conclusion