The Syntax of American Sign Language

From Language, Speech, and Communication

The Syntax of American Sign Language

Functional Categories and Hierarchical Structure

By Carol Neidle, Judy Kegl, Dawn MacLaughlin, Benjamin Bahan and Robert G. Lee

A Bradford Book





Recent research on the syntax of signed languages has revealed that, apart from some modality-specific differences, signed languages are organized according to the same underlying principles as spoken languages. This book addresses the organization and distribution of functional categories in American Sign Language (ASL), focusing on tense, agreement, and wh-constructions. Signed languages provide illuminating evidence about functional projections of a kind unavailable in the study of spoken languages. Along with manual signing, crucial information is expressed by specific movements of the face and upper body. The authors argue that such nonmanual markings are often direct expressions of abstract syntactic features. The distribution and intensity of these markings provide information about the location of functional heads and the boundaries of functional projections. The authors show how evidence from ASL is useful for evaluating a number of recent theoretical proposals on, among other things, the status of syntactic agreement projections and constraints on phrase structure and the directionality of movement.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262140676 239 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262512213 239 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Dazzling—of great interest to linguists in general and sign-languagescholars in particular. There are fresh arguments and evidence for manyimportant claims about UG and ASL.

    Harlan Lane

    University Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University

  • This book should be on the shelf of every serious scholar of service management, human resource management, and financial institutions.

    Patrick T. Harker

    The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania