Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Sounds Fascinating

By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Body as subject
Author: Irit Meir
Institution: University of Haifa
Author: Carol A. Padden
Institution: University of California
Author: Mark Aronoff
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Stony Brook University
Author: Wendy Sandler
Institution: University of Haifa
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Typology
Abstract: The notion of subject in human language has a privileged status relative to other arguments. This special status is manifested in the behavior of subjects at the morphological, syntactic, semantic and discourse levels. Here we present evidence that subjects have a privileged status at the lexical level as well, by analyzing lexicalization patterns of verbs in three different sign languages. Our analysis shows that the sub-lexical structure of iconic signs denoting states of affairs in these languages manifests an inherent pattern of form–meaning correspondence: the signer's body consistently represents one argument of the verb, the subject. The hands, moving in relation to the body, represent all other components of the event – including all other arguments. This analysis shows that sign languages provide novel evidence in support of the centrality of the notion of subject in human language. It also solves a typological puzzle about the apparent primacy of object in sign language verb agreement, a primacy not usually found in spoken languages, in which subject agreement generally ranks higher. Our analysis suggests that the subject argument is represented by the body and is part of the lexical structure of the verb. Because it is always inherently represented in the structure of the sign, the subject is more basic than the object, and tolerates the omission of agreement morphology.


This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 43, Issue 3.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page