A preliminary look at negative constructions in South African Sign Language: Question-Answer clauses

  • Kate Huddlestone Stellenbosch University


How negation is expressed by means of manual and/or non-manual markers has been described in a wide range of sign languages. This work has suggested a split between sign languages requiring a manual negative element in negative clauses (manual dominant sign languages) and those where a non-manual marker only can be used (non-manual dominant sign languages) (Zeshan 2006; 2004). To date there is only one published study on negation in SASL which describes SASL as a non-manual dominant language (De Barros and Siebörger 2016). However, Oomen and Pfau (2017) have recently indicated that such a typological split is too radical. They show that larger data sets are necessary to identify the range of expressions used within one sign language to express negation. This paper will contribute to this typological debate by considering some preliminary data from South African Sign Language (SASL), highlighting a particular construction, known as a polar Question-Answer clause, which is not generally mentioned in the literature on negation in sign languages. The paper will conclude with a reflection on the implications of these observations for a typology of negation in sign languages.


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Part II: Beyond Afrikaans - linguistic diversity in southern Africa