O-only agreement

Sonja Erlenkamp sonjaerlenkamp at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 20 15:18:58 UTC 2009





Well, I have to say, I don't agree with Ulrike on agreement (no pun intended). Most signed languages do - as far as I can tell - show no agreement patterns at all. There are constructions which are called "agreement" verbs by some researchers, but as for example Scott Liddell has shown for ASL (American Sign Language) in several of his publications from 1998 to this day, these constructions are not agreement patterns, since there is nothing  of a linguistic structure that the verb and the noun phrases actually share. They both make use of spatial locations to create reference to participants, but spatial locations are not morphemes in themselves. Signs can be placed at spatial locations, as well as verbs directed to, but space in itself cannot be a morpheme.  There are several other reasons why the application of the term "agreement" on this construction is misleading, but I won't go into detail on that one here. The number of researchers who agree with Liddell on this issue for different signed languages has been increasing since he started the debate.
 
My own research on Norwegian Sign Languages (and German Sign Language), shows that these two signed languages do use different markings of grammatical relations in different construction types withou any clear S/A or S/O correspondence. The directionality you mention (where movements are directed in space to mark relations between participants by means of prompting mental connections between spatial locations and referents) is only one type of construction, which is not even very frequent in signed language utterances due to the fact that the verbs involved are often ditransitive verbs. It seems as if this verb class consists mostly of verbs conceptualizing some kind of either concrete or metaphorical transfer, where the movement direction resembles the path of the transfer. In fact the directional movement in these verbs moves from the location related to the A towards the location related to the indirect "object", not the O. I have never seen a directional verb in the signed languages I have looked at that had a movement towards the O exclusively, but there are some verbs that can only be moved away from the spatial location related to the A, something which often involves another construction: surrogate blends. I wouldn't call that agreement though. 
 
 
All the best
 
Sonja
 
 
Prof. Sonja Erlenkamp
University College of Sør-Trøndelag
Department of teacher - and sign language education
2004 Trondheim
Norway
 
> Date: Sun, 20 Sep 2009 10:23:57 +0100
> From: uzeshan at UCLAN.AC.UK
> Subject: Re: O-only agreement
> To: LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG
> 
> Hi, though this is only partially what you are looking for, the majority of sign languages have the following agreement patterns:
> 
> - no agreement with intransitive S
> - agreement with both A and O for some transitive verbs
> - agreement with O only for some other transitive verbs
> 
> Interestingly, agreement with A only in transitive verbs does not occur.
> 
> Verb agreement with transitive verbs is also known as "directionality" in sign linguistics (due to the agreement being shown by the direction of the hand movement during production of the verb).
> 
> Ulrike
> 
> 
> 
> Prof. Ulrike Zeshan
> Director, International Centre for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies
> Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
> Livesey House, LH212
> University of Central Lancashire
> Preston PR12HE, UK
> uzeshan at uclan.ac.uk
> Ph. +44-1772-893104
> 
> >>> peterarkadiev <peterarkadiev at YANDEX.RU> 19/09/09 2:51 PM >>>
> Dear typologists,
> 
> while Paul Hopper has come up with an example of A-only agreement in Malay (see references below), I ask a follow-up question concerning the mirror-image situation: are there any languages where the verb would agree exclusively with the transitive O (patient, undergoer, direct object), but neither with the transitive A nor with the intransitive S?
> 
> Many thanks and best wishes,
> 
> Peter Arkadiev
> 
> 
> Paul J. Hopper, 1987 Stability and change in VN/NV Alternating Languages:
> A study in pragmatics and linguistic typology. In M. Bertuccelli Papi and
> J.Verscheuren, eds., The Pragmatic Perspective, 455-476. Amsterdam: John
> Benjamins.
> 
> Paul J. Hopper, 1983 Ergative, passive, and active in Malay narrative
> discourse. In F. Klein-Andreu, ed., Discourse Perspectives on Syntax,
> 64-87. New York: Academic Press.

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