Kuhn, Jeremy. 2019. Logical meaning in space: Iconic biases on quantification in sign languages.
Manuscript, Institut Jean-Nicod (CNRS), Ecole Normale Supérieure.
paper at LingBuzz]
Typologically, the world's languages vary in how they express universal quantification
and negative quantification. In patterns of concord, a single distributive or negative
meaning is expressed redundantly on multiple morphological items. Sign languages, too,
show semantic variation, but, surprisingly, this variation populates only a small corner
of the full typological landscape. Sign languages systematically have distributive
concord but tend to not have negative concord in its canonical form. Here, I explain
these typological facts as the reflection of an abstract, iconic bias. Recent work on
distributive concord and negative concord has proposed that these phenomena can be
explained in relation to the discourse referents that they make available. I argue
that discourse reference is also uniquely important to the iconic use of space in sign
languages. The quirky sign language typology is thus explained based on what is easy
and hard to represent in space.
Keywords: Quantification, sign language, iconicity, negative concord, distributivity, discourse reference, typology, cognitive biases