Context shift in sign language
Lecturer(s):Sandro Zucchi (UniversitÓ degli Studi di Milano)
Type:Advanced Course
Section:Logic and Language
Time: 14.00-15.30 (Slot 3)
Room:EM 3.06


Recent work on sign languages (SLs) has revealed that they are
rule-governed languages whose grammars reflect the same general principles
that govern the grammars of vocal languages. While this line of research
has lead to important insights on what parts of the grammar of natural
languages are independent of the particular medium these languages use,
it's also the case that SLs show significant differences from vocal
languages: in particular, they make an extensive use of context shifting
operators. For example: (a) while first person agreement morphology refers
to the speaker of the context, there are communicative modes in SL in which
the same morphology may refer to someone other than the speaker (this is
known as 'role shift' in the SL literature); (b) time adverbs
arguably shift the time coordinate of the context, as it is quite common
for the signed counterparts of "yesterday"  and
"tomorrow" to occur with the verb forms used to convey present
The course explores the phenomenon of context shift in SL: how it should
be modeled in a formal semantic framework, and why this phenomenon is so
extensive in SL. The course will include a part on how to construct an SL
database (field research, acquisition of filmed data on a computer,
glossing of video data with the program SignStream).


© ESSLLI 2005 Organising Committee 2004-12-01