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There Once Was a Verb: The Predicative Core of Possessive and Nominalization Structures in American Sign Language

  • Author(s): Abner, Natasha Renee
  • Advisor(s): Koopman, Hilda
  • Stabler, Edward
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation presents two extensive case studies in the morpho-syntactic structure of American Sign Language (ASL) based on original fieldwork conducted with native, deaf signers.

The first case study focuses on the structure of attributive and predicative POSS possessives. Based on language-internal diagnostics, this study shows that the possessive marker, POSS, functions as a verbal predicate of possession, not as a DP-internal marker of the possessive relation. The structure and interpretation of predicative POSS possessives are reduced to the interaction of the verbal POSS structure with two functional components of the predicative domain: (i) locative structure and (ii) licensing positions of definite objects. Attributive POSS possessives are derived as prenominal reduced relative clause modifiers formed from this underlying predicative structure.

The second case study presented here addresses the structural uniformity and semantic ambiguity of two classes of deverbal nominals formed via reduplication in ASL: concrete object-denoting nominals and result-denoting nominals. Based on a morpho-semantic decomposition of verbal structure that is transparent in the surface form of verbal predicates in ASL, it is shown that nominalization via reduplication targets the lowest constituent of the verbal structure (VP-Res ). Nominalization of VP-Res yields the class of result-denoting nominals, while concrete object-denoting nominals are derived as relative clause structures headed by a nominal argument that is introduced by the classifier structure present in the relevant verbal forms.

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