ILS Colloquium


19 January 2023
15:30 - 17:00
Drift 21, Sweelinckzaal (0.05)

Marloes Oomen and Floris Roelofsen

Polar questions in Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT)

 Marloes Oomen & Floris Roelofsen 

Date & time: Thursday 19 January 2023, 15:30 with drinks afterwards

Location: Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, room 0.05



Relatively little is known about the way(s) in which polar questions (yes-no questions) are expressed in sign languages. It is often assumed that polar questions are typically marked in sign languages by raised eyebrows (e.g. Zeshan 2004). But in corpora and experimental data, lots of variation has been found: raised eyebrows, furrowed eyebrows, and various other markers, both manual and non-manual, can be involved in the expression of polar questions (e.g. Coerts 1992; De Vos et al. 2009 for NGT).


We hypothesize that different polar question forms in NGT convey different expectations on the signer’s part, similar to the difference in expectations conveyed by “Do you have a car?”,

“Don’t you have a car?”, and “You have a car, don’t you?” in English. The talk presents preliminary results from an experiment that tests this hypothesis.