We are happy to announce a talk by Markus Steinbach (University of Göttingen) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.

Title: Visual answers – response strategies in German Sign Language

Date: November 11

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Response particle systems vary cross-linguistically regarding the number and discourse functions of the response elements. Some languages have two particles (English yesno), others have three (German janein, doch). Traditional accounts of response systems distinguish truth-based and polarity-based systems (Pope 1976, Jones 1999). In truth-based systems, yes-type answers confirm the truth of the antecedent proposition and no-type answers reject it. In polarity-based systems, response particles signal the polarity of the response clause: positive (yes-type) or negative (no-type). Languages may also employ both systems and use no to reject the truth of a proposition or signal the negative polarity of the response. Languages with a three-particle system often have a dedicated response particle for rejecting negative propositions, although other dedicated particles exist, too (Roelofsen & Farkas 2015). Concerning the visual-gestural modality, very little is known about the inventory of (non‑)manual response elements (but see Gonzalez et al. on ASL), including their role in signaling truth vs. polarity. Sign languages are of particular interest here since they have multiple articulatory channels, which may simultaneously encode truth and polarity. The present study provides data from a production experiment with 24 native signers of DGS investigating responses to positive and negative assertions. It shows that DGS favors a truth-based over a polarity-based strategy, as does German, but it also exhibits modality-specific response strategies that combine truth and polarity. Additionally, DGS integrates non-manual gestural components and exhibits interesting bimodal combinations of signs and (German) mouthings.