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Interrogatives and negatives in Flemish Sign Language

Publication date: 2006-01
Pages: 225 - 256
ISBN: 90-8656-001-6
Publisher: Ishara Press; Nijmegen

Author:

Van Herreweghe, Mieke
Vermeerbergen, Myriam

Keywords:

Flemish Sign Language, interrogative constructions, negation, sign linguistics

Abstract:

In this chapter, the first results of recently started research into interrogatives and negatives in Flemish Sign Language (“Vlaamse Gebarentaal” or VGT) will be presented. VGT is one of the “understudied” sign languages in the world because of the very limited number of sign linguistics researchers. The research which will be presented here is mainly descriptive and is based on the following data: • Parts of a corpus which has been collected, transcribed and translated in an earlier stage of research which dealt with the morpho-syntactic structure of VGT. The whole corpus consists of six hours of spontaneous language data – four hours of dialogues and two hours of monologues – produced by 10 adult native or near-native sign language users aged between 30 and 83. • Nine versions of the same story, told by five adults and four adolescents. The subjects were asked to watch an animated cartoon of about 7 minutes without any spoken interactions, nor subtitling, and to then narrate the story in VGT to a deaf interlocutor. • “Semi-elicited” conversations between two pairs of (near-)native signers who ask each other questions to which they expect a negative answer (which was usually the case). We also discussed some of our findings with (near-)native signers. The research results with regard to negation were discussed with three sign language users. For interrogation there was a discussion with five signers in which we had a closer look at some questions from the shorter version of the questionnaire on negatives and interrogatives for linguists (cf. chapter 2 of this volume). All of the informants have been or are connected with sign language research and/or teaching. The results of these discussions were only used as additional information and did not serve as the only or major source.