Original Research

Sentential negation in South African Sign Language: A case study

Courtney de Barros, Ian Siebörger
Literator | Vol 37, No 2 | a1285 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i2.1285 | © 2016 Courtney de Barros, Ian Siebörger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2016 | Published: 28 November 2016

About the author(s)

Courtney de Barros, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, South Africa
Ian Siebörger, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, South Africa

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As with other sign languages, South African Sign Language (SASL) expresses negation using both manual and non-manual features. In this case study, naturalistic data provided by two native signers of SASL are analysed to show the syntactic relationship between these two sets of features. Using a Principles and Parameters approach and Government and Binding Theory, we investigate the syntactic scope of negation in our SASL data. We observe that side-to-side headshake, as a non-manual feature, appears to be the chief clausal negator in SASL, with a clause-final manual negative particle, NOT, playing a secondary role. We describe the negative headshake as a featural affix which is base-generated in the head of NegP and triggers V-to-Neg raising. The negative particle NOT appears to be base-generated in the Specifier of NegP. Suggestions for further syntactic research on SASL are provided.


sentential negation; South African Sign Language; negative particle; featural affix


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