Negation of know, want, like, have, and good in American Sign Language



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Predicates KNOW, WANT, LIKE, HAVE, and GOOD have been reported to differ from other predicates in American Sign Language (ASL) in that they are typically negated by reversing the orientation of hand[s] in a twisting outward/downward movement. This phenomenon has been termed "negative incorporation." In this study, I examine semantic properties of negative-incorporation predicates. Specifically, I investigate whether these predicates also allow other negation strategies available in ASL and what the meanings conveyed by using these strategies are.

I provide a detailed description of negative incorporation and demonstrate that it has a different status for the verbal predicates WANT, LIKE, and KNOW versus the adjectival predicate BAD. Using the data from a structured data collection procedure in the form of a production task and the elicitation of acceptability judgments, I identify various possibilities and preferred strategies for the investigated predicates, show that most signers do not accept negative incorporation with HAVE in contemporary ASL, demonstrate that nonmanual negation when a negative headshake is the only indicator of negation cannot be used with the verbal negative-incorporation predicates, and point out that there is variation among signers with respect to the preferred strategy of negation for LIKE that can be explained by historical change in progress.