In sign languages, the position for content questions is clause-initial, clause-final or both. For instance; TİD (Turkish Sign Language) licenses both.
When there is topicalization in the sentence, the content question occurs post-topic position in some sign languages; like Finnish Sign Language. Zeshan (2004) points that one of the proposed explainations for this post topic position is ease of articulation. Is there any other reason for this change when there is topicalization? Is there synactic reason for it along with articulatory one?

  • By saying "content question" you mean wh-questions, in contrast to yes-no questions? – Alenanno Apr 27 '12 at 13:09
  • yes, I mean wh- questions, but some sign languages do not have a manual for this questions but they mark the question sentences by nonmanuals, so I prefer to say content questions. – Serpil Karabüklü Apr 27 '12 at 15:07

There is a theory in American Sign Language Syntax (proposed by Neidle et al 2000) that one of the doubled wh-phrases might actually be a topic (dubbed a wh-topic) in which case it follows the syntactic rules for a base generated topic. One of these rules is that if the wh-phrase occurs with a moved topic, it must precede the moved topic, just like any other base generated topic would. So in American Sign Language anyway the wh-phrase is actually first, followed by the other topic. And since you mentioned the articulatory demands/conflicts, it should be noted the that one of the prominent non-manual markers for wh-questions is brows furrowed, and one of the prominent non-manual marker for topic marking is brows raised, obviously there is a conflict, which is one of the reasons that this theory is up for debate (although there is some evidence that the topic+wh marker is slightly different from just the wh marker)

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.