Linguistics ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 2-15-2019


This dissertation uses data from Zaban Eshareh Irani, Iranian Sign Language, to investigate the linguistic strategies for the expression of modality in this language. Manual and facial markers of modality are recognized and analyzed based on their form and the semantic domain each covers. Vander Auwera and Plungian (1998) offered a semantic map for categorization of different modals across languages. According to their framework, modality can be classified into two vast domains of possibility and necessity. Based on the source of the modal force then, each modality domain is categorized into three groups of participant-external, participant-internal and epistemic. In this dissertation, ZEI modal markers are discussed based on different discursive contexts in which they appear, and then categorized within Van der Auwera and Plungian (1998) framework. Apart from a discursive semantic analysis of ZEI modals, I try to develop a cognitive approach towards understanding facial channel in signed languages as opposed to the manual one. Facial markers have always been analyzed as important parts of signed languages' grammar. Three distinct facial markers are explained as markers of modality, both with and without accompanying a manual marker. Applying a cognitive grammar approach to modality (Langacker 1991, 2008, 2013), I show that facial markers are the main indicators of epistemic modality in ZEI. Facial markers are also involved in non-epistemic (effective) modality, for example by marking the degree of modality force.




Sign Linguistics, Modality, Iranian Sign Language, ZEI, Facial markers

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Linguistics

First Committee Member (Chair)

Sherman Wilcox

Second Committee Member

Melissa Axelrod

Third Committee Member

Barbara Shaffer

Fourth Committee Member

André Xavier