Topics and topica1ization in American Sign Language

Debra Aarons


This paper presents a syntactic analysis of Topics in American Sign Language (henceforward ASL), in the Principles and Parameters framework (Chomsky 1986 a,b, 1991,1992)1. Topics in American Sign Language occur in a structural position to the left of the Complementizer Phrase. Researchers have previougJy identified topics by a particularnon-manuaI marking, thought to accompany all topics.: In this paper, a distinction is drawn between base-generated and moved topics, and, moreover, there is shown to be a difference among the non-manual markings accompanying at least three different sorts of topics. In addition, topic position is shown to be structurally present in embedded as well as main clauses. Extraction is argued to be possible from within an embedded clause to the topic position of the main clause, in the case of non-finite embedded clauses. A maximum of two topics can beadjoinedto·CP inASL. If the sentence has two topics, only some combinations of the different sorts of topics areallowed.

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ISSN 2223-9936 (online); ISSN 1027-3417 (print)

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