Verb raising in American sign language

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Previous researchers have suggested that the base-generated word order in ASL is Subject-Verb-Object (Fischer, 1987; Liddell, 1980). However, there are some constructions which apparently contradict this assumption. Among these constructions are the phenomena of Verb Sandwich (Fischer and Janis, 1992), Verb Final (Romano, 1991), and Object Raising (Liddell, 1980). All three sentence types contain verbs with an aspectual marker. Unlike its uninflected counterpart, an inflected verb in these constructions appears in the sentence-final position, which is not assumed to be the basic position for ASL verbs. I propose a unified account for these three ASL constructions and consider its theoretical implications for the theory of verbal morphology. I extend the idea of the Movement Analysis of Verb Sandwich, proposed in Fischer and Janis (1992). Based on the Minimalist approach proposed in Chomsky (1995), I argue that the derivations of all three sentence patterns involve overt verb raising to Infl. The verb movement to Infl occurs to save the otherwise stranded [asp] affix, even though the verb itself does not have motivation to raise overtly. Hence, this verb raising is a syntactic operation driven by Enlightened Self Interest (Lasnik, 1995a,b). In our discussion, it is shown that Chomsky's (1995) Checking Theory faces empirical problems in accounting for the ASL phenomena in question. I will present an alternative analysis, which is crucially based on a proposal of Lasnik (1995c) that regular verbs are selected from the lexicon uninflected. The Object Raising is analyzed as an instance of Holmberg's generalization (Branigan, 1992), which states that overt object shift is possible only when the verb is overtly raised out of VP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-149
Number of pages23
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Nov
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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