Daniel Hole & Fabian Bross

(University of Stuttgart)

Scope-taking strategies and the order of clausal categories in German Sign Language

Abstract: The scope order of clausal categories has been claimed to be universal. In this talk we adopt a universalist cartographic approach to clausal syntax. By discussing the categories of speech acts, evaluation, epistemic modality, scalarity, volition and deontic, as well as other kinds of modality, we illustrate a striking regularity in strategies of scope-taking in German Sign Language (DGS): The wider/higher the scope of a clausal operator is, the more likely its expression will occur with a high body-part by way of layering. Namely, descending from the eyebrows to the lower face, tentatively to the shoulders, and finally switching to manual expressions. For intermediate operators a left-to-right concatenation strategy is employed, and low categories are expressed by way of a manual right-to-left concatenation strategy. Hence, we propose a highly regular natural mapping of the scope-order of clausal categories onto the body. This sort of mapping can be observed in other sign languages, too, and may turn out to be universal.