Negation in Polish Sign Language. We teach sign #25

What does negation look like in Polish sign language? Natalia Sobótka explains. „Negation in Polish Sign Language. We teach sign #25”. Jakub Malik translates into Polish sign language.

When we start learning a foreign language, We start with the basics – variations of the word “to be”, appropriate sentence construction, question and … negation. That’s right, negation. In Polish, it is expressed simply simply by adding the word “no” in the appropriate place. And have you ever wondered what negation looks like in Polish Sign Language?

What does negation look like in Polish Sign Language?

Probably some of you will conclude, That all you have to do is nod your head right and left, That is, to use the head gesture, which is also used in Polish. But is it that simple?

Researchers involved in sign linguistics naturally wanted to accurately describe the exponents of negation. We can divide them into manual, That is, those using the hands, and non-manual, i.e. precisely the nodding of the head. Manual exponents of negation is the blinking of the NO sign or the inclusion of the negation morpheme – in the sign. called alpha motion, which is a circular movement of the wrist. In Polish Sign Language, it is seen in signs such as: I WILL NOT, DON’T HAVE, I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

A study by Dr. Anna Kuder of the Sign Linguistics Laboratory

In this case, one can consider -. since there are manual exponents of negation then is a simple shaking of the head is needed? This belongs to the grammar of the language, That is, it is essential for correct construction of the message, or to the pragmatics of the language, that is an additional, optional element? To answer this question, she decided to to answer Dr. Anna Kuder from the Laboratory of Sign Linguistics University of Warsaw. In her dissertation she presented the results of her research conducted on the Corpus Polish Sign Language. Why is this so important?

In the early days of sign linguistics unfortunately, a common phenomenon was the creation of theses based on their own, individual experiences unsupported by any studies with an appropriate methodology. The researcher observed something or talked to one deaf person and stated “Oh, that’s just the way it is!”. This makes Anna Kurder’s study all the more deserves attention. The material she studied contained as many as 722 film files! For comparison, a similar study of of negation in Dutch sign language involved the analysis of 35 film clips, and Australian Sign Language 413.

Conclusions of the study

What came out of Anna Kuder’s research? One of the conclusions was this, That shaking one’s head when expressing negation manual in Polish Sign Language is … optional. Morphologically negated verbs only in 49% of cases were supplemented with head spinning. In 51% of cases In sentences containing a verb negated morphologically, i.e., e.g., I DON’T HAVE, I DON’T UNDERSTAND, NO WILL, there was a lack of head shaking. It follows that head shaking when expressing manual negation in Polish Sign Language is optional.

Okay, in that case we could think about it, Is there a chance of negation exclusively non-manual? Anna Kuder argues that this is the rarest way of negation in Polish sign language. Interestingly, head shaking can also have functions other than negation as well. For example, it can express disbelief, ignorance, hesitation, disapproval, anxiety. Thanks to this research, we can with we can say with certainty, That the head shaking is in addition to the message in Polish Sign Language, and not an obligatory part of it. It can be thought that sign language speakers, having high motor and facial expressions naturally more and more frequently turn their head from side to side, While others use sign language in a more balanced way, and — by extension. are much less likely to include their message with head movements.

“No” or “yes?”

Finally, a curiosity. You may have heard that in some countries negation is expressed by moving of the head to the left and to the right, and in some – a movement of the of the head backward and forward. This is the case in Turkey and Jordan, for example. Interestingly, this is the case both in the phonetic languages of these countries, As well as in their sign languages!

Source: Anna Maria Kuder’s doctoral dissertation „Wykładniki negacji w polskim języku migowym (PJM)”, Warsaw 2019.

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