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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Bilingualism and Deafness: On Language Contact in the Bilingual Acquisition of Sign Language and Written Language
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Word order

Word order in sign languages, including DGS, has been found to be determined by several grammatical and discourse requirements. There is a consensus that the basic word order of DGS is SOV. Further, while the verb obligatorily, appears sentence-finally, the order of other constituents might vary, following diverse requirements (Gluck & Pfau 1999; Happ & Vorkoper 2006; Rathmann 2001; Stein- bach 2007). Word order in (21) (cf. Leuninger 2000: 238, our transl.)[1], for example, follows the figure-ground principle known from gestalt psychology: it requires that the ground be expressed before the figure (Happ & Vorkoper 2006: 111). In DGS, unlike in German, there is no asymmetry between main and embedded clauses regarding verb placement, as DGS is a strict SOV language, that is, verbs always appear sentence-finally. The sentence-final position of verbs in complex clauses is illustrated in example (22) (from Herrmann & Steinbach 2007: 158, our transl.), an example of a clause with an embedded indirect quotation. Sentence types are distinguished through the use of non-manual components. Example (23) (from Happ & Vorkoper 2006: 451, our transl.) shows that the conditional clause is marked through raised eye-brows, the main clause with a head-nod on the verb (note that conditional clauses always precede the modified main clauses).

Another characteristic that is of relevance, in particular, from a comparative perspective, is that no auxiliary (copula) verb is used in predicative constructions in DGS. The linking of the subject and the predicative adjective or other complements requires the use of a determiner, i.e. detloc (also transcribed as dort, ‘there’) to express location (24), or detart in combination with predicative adjectives (25). Further, the determiner detexist (usually notated as da) is used to express existence, presence or possession (26) (examples [24-26] from Happ & Vorkoper 2006: 111, 106, 114, our transl.). We will come back to the use of determiners and referential loci in section З.1.4.2.

Word order and morphological case

In DGS, subjects and objects are not overtly case marked but are assigned abstract case in their respective structural positions (Happ & Vorkoper 2006: 101). In some constructions with plain transitive verbs (see (27)), case is assigned via pam (for personal agreement marker, also often notated as auf (‘on’). We will explain the role of pam as an agreement marker in section З.1.З.2. The other personal agreement marker bem (benefactive agreement marker) marks benefactive case (also notated as fur, ‘for’) (28) (examples [27-28] from Happ & Vorkoper 2006: 101, our transl.).

  • [1] The notation devices adopted for DGS examples are summarised in the list of "transcriptionconventions for sign language examples”
 
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