Linguistics in Amsterdam 1-1 (november 2008)Roland Pfau: The Grammar of Headshake: A Typological Perspective on German Sign Language Negation1

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Abstract

Sentential negation in German Sign Language (DGS) is particularly interesting, because it involves the combination of a manual and a non-manual element. The manual element is the negative particle not, the non-manual component is a side-to-side headshake which accompanies (at least) the predicate. In this paper, I argue that, despite this peculiarity, DGS fits neatly into the typological scheme that has been proposed on the basis of negation patterns attested across spoken languages. In particular, I claim that DGS shows split negation whereby a negative particle is combined with a negative affix. This negative affix, however, is featural in nature and triggers a prosodic change comparable to tone changes in tone languages. Data from a number of African languages illustrate that similar prosodic modifications are also attested in spoken language negation.