Linguistics Colloquium: Svetlana Dachkovsky

14/01/2020 - 14:00 - 15:30

Svetlana Dachkovsky, University of Haifa and Gordon College, Haifa

Title: Grammaticalization of intonation in Israeli Sign Language: From information structure to subordination


Intonation is an interesting testing ground for theories of grammaticalization because, unlike the grammaticalization of affixes from words, linguistic intonation is thought to have grammaticalized from intonational signals that were not linguistic (Gussenhoven 2004, Janzen 1999 inter alia). Israeli Sign Language (ISL), a language in which the functions of intonation are performed by facial expression and head movements (e.g., Sandler 1999; Dachkovsky et al. 2013), presents a rare opportunity for testing this hypothesis due to its young age (Meir and Sandler 2008).

Adopting Labov’s (1963) apparent time construct, the present study investigates the grammaticalization of intonational markers of relative clauses in ISL -- forward head movement and squinted eyes -- by tracking their changes across three generations of ISL signers.  The study demonstrates that these signals begin as pragmatic or, more specifically, as information structuring devices, and are transformed by a grammaticalization process into relative clause construction markers. The study has important implications for understanding the role of intonation in the emergence and development of subordination. The grammaticalization of multiple co-occurring intonational signals results in the gradual crystallization of the relative clause construction as a discrete linguistic category.
Place: Building 403 room 2
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