By Debra AArons
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Extra resources for Aspects of the Syntax of American Sign Language
3 Non-manual Marking A milestone in ASL research was the discovery that manual signs in ASL are frequently accompanied by facial expressions which are not affective but appear to have some grammatical function. Thus, a string of manual signs can mean different things depending on the non-manual marking that accompanies it. Sometimes a string of signs is regarded by native signers as ungrammatical, but would be considered grammatical with the addition of a certain non-manual marking. Over the years, these non-manual markers have been carefully described in terms of the component parts of their articulation, such as raised or lowered eyebrows, angle of the head, mouth movements, etc..
1 Proving that American Sign Language is not like Spoken Language Early researchers in the field of ASL concentrated their efforts on demonstrating that ASL, as a language that uses the eyes and hands, is not at all similar to any language that uses the ears and the vocal apparatus. Enormous efforts were made to show that signed languages are different from, but not inferior to, spoken languages. Researchers tried specifically to show that ASL is not a form of English, and that ASL has a very different grammar from spoken languages, because its grammar is spatial.
The basic configuration for phrases of all categories is illustrated in Figure 1. XP YP X' X ZP Figure 1 Basic X-bar Structure 37 Note that Xo represents the head, and XP the maximal projection. The sister to Xo is referred to as the complement, and the sister to X’ is known as the Specifier. The relative ordering of the binary branches may differ from language to language, and may moreover vary within different categories in a single language (Koopman, 1984; Travis, 1984, 1989; Georgopoulos, 1991; Giorgi and Longobardi, 1991; Jung, 1992).