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Auteur: Andrea LACKNER

Coding Modality in Austrian Sign Languages

Abstract/Résumé: I describe three means to code/refer to modality in Sign Languages. First, I outline two coding systems for modality in Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS). The first is the modal system in which modal signs are used. This system has been described for other Sign Languages (SLs) (Wilcox & Shaffer 2006 in American SL or Pfau & Quer 2004 in German SL and Catalan SL). Non-manual elements (face, head, body) that can accompany these modal signs have also been described to some extent. The second modality system, which I report for the first time, is a set of non-manual markers which is primarily used to code ‘epistemic modality’. These non-manual markers are produced with the head or body and refer exactly to the content which they cover. Primarily, they serve to mark propositional modality, that is, the signer’s knowledge and/or degree of confidence of the true value of a proposition can be shown by these possibilities: convinced-assertive marker, non-assertive maker, speculative marker, and timitive marker. The identified potentiality marker ‘head tilt sideward’ or ‘body lean sideward’ codes possibility of the implementation of an unrealized event and covers the syntactic constituent on which the modality meaning is referred to. Other nonmanuals like ‘wrinkled nose’, ‘squinted eyes’ or the mouth action ‘stretched-down’ can code modality too, but these require further investigations. Second, I report another phenomenon which is new in SL research: When ÖGS signers want to refer to an unrealized possibility, uncertainty, chance etc. they refer to a mental space which I call ‘hypothetical space’. It is indicated by different means of coding (indexing-upward, gaze-up, chin-up or displacement of the sign’s place of articulation into a higher signing space). The indicators occur as beginning phrasal edge markers or phrasal domain markers. The use of the hypothetical space primarily occurs in ‘embedded two-option interrogatives’. References: Pfau, Roland & Quer, Josep (2004) On the syntax of negation and modals in Catalan Sign Language and German Sign Language. 26th Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), Mainz, February 27th 2004. Wilcox, Sherman & Shaffer, Barbara (2006) Modality in ASL. In: Frawley, William (ed.) The Expression of Modality. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.