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From:  Ulrike Zeshan
Date:  Tue Jul 6, 1999  3:53 am
Subject:  sign language typology project

Dear list members,

this message does not have anything particular to do with sign writing, but
since I know that this is an international list of 'sign language persons',
I am venturing to post the 'call for participation' below. I am conducting
a world wide cross-linguistic project on questions and negatives in signed
languages. So far I have recruited participants from 37 countries around
the world, but there are still some countries and regions for which I have
no source of information yet. In particular, I would like to get into
contact with people from Brasil, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam,
Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia, and all Arabic speaking countries. So if you are
form one of these countries anf think you could contribute something to the
project as outlined below, please contact me. You don't have to be a
linguist to participate in the project, you just have to know a sign
language or be able to cooperate with a person who knows sign language.
Thank you very much for any help.

Ulrike Zeshan


Project 'Interrogatives and Negatives in Signed and Spoken
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, Australian National
University, Canberra
Project Coordinator: Ulrike Zeshan

The Australian National Univeristy is going to start a
cross-linguistic research project on signed and spoken languages within the
framework of their typological project 'The categories of human languages',
headed by Prof. R.M.W. Dixon and Prof. A.Y. Aikhenvald. This project has so
far studied a number of grammatical categories in spoken languages only.
Beginning in April, a sign language section will be added to the project.
This is the very first time that signed languages figure in a large
typological project, and it is a significant step towards making the
results of sign language research known to the larger linguistic

The typological project is going to investigate
interrogatives and negatives in as many signed languages as possible, and
to compare the results to spoken language structures. The most important
purpose is to gather comparative data in a limited grammatical domain from
various sign languages that are goegraphically and genetically unrelated.
This would lead to a better understanding and differentiation of
modality-specific factors that are common to all sign languages and
arbitrary factors that are language specific and not shared across
different sign languages. This issue is still largely unexplored.

The success of the project is entirely dependent on the
participation of sign linguists and sign language informants around the
world. We invite everybody who can provide information about how questions
and negations are formed in a particular sign language to participate. The
results of the project will be published. Contributions from countries
outside Europe and Northern America are especially encouraged. Even a
limited amount of information (from sign languages that have not been
studies in detail) is valuable for us. The information you provide can be
stated informally, without reference to a particular theoretical framework.

Detailed questionnaires will be developed in April and May and will then be
mailed to the participants. We will ask you to provide information about
questions such as the following:
- What are the question words (wh-words) that exist in your sign language?
- How many negative signs (no, not etc.) exist and how are they used?
- What kind of facial expressions (if any) are used with questions and
- What are the possible positions of interrogative and negative signs in
the sentence?
- We will ask you to provide example sentences.
Depending on the amount of information you will provide, you can
expect from a few hours up to a week for completion of the
It is not necessary to fill out all sections, just do as much as you

If you are interested in the project, if you want to
participate or want further information, please contact:

Ulrike Zeshan
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology
OAA.block F (building 4F)
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200

Phone: 0061-2-6249 5108
Fax: 0061-2-6249 0332


Ulrike Zeshan
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200

ph. +61-2-62495108
fax +61-2-62490332


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