Grammaticalization and modality: The emergence of a case-marked pronoun in Israeli Sign Language

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This paper focuses on the role of modality in determining certain properties of grammaticalization processes in signed vs. spoken languages. The process examined here is the evolution of a case-marked pronoun in the pronominal system of Israeli Sign Language. This pronoun is shown to have evolved from the homophonous noun PERSON. The grammaticalization path leading to the evolution of a case distinction is compared to the evolution of case markers in spoken languages. This comparison reveals that languages in different modalities target different words as sources for grammaticalization. Case markers in spoken languages usually evolve from certain nouns or verbs denoting spatial relations, while in sign languages this is not the case. It is suggested that this difference might be attributed to the scarcity of prepositions in sign languages, and to the iconicity of spatial predicates, which may restrict the possible grammaticalization processes in which they may participate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-140
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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