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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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Further development: increasing narrative complexity

If Muhammed’s file 1 already reflects his mastery of DGS grammar, the analysis of file 3 reveals Muhammed’s skilful orchestration of linguistic devices for narrative purposes. The result is a lively and complex narration of the frog story.

Syntax and morphosyntax

Range and functions of complex sentential constructions. Complex sentential constructions were already produced in file 1, but the range of the structures produced in file 3 is broader. Note that the examples in (117) and (118) do not only indicate that Muhammed has a command of the target OV property; the sequences also show that the mechanisms necessary for the building of complex clauses are well in place. The sequence in (117) involves a relative clause modifying the noun name which is, in turn, part of a subordinated clause selected by the verb wish. Example (118), too, involves the verb wish, which is combined with a constituent clause. The complex construction in (119) involves the modal verb like-to. Other examples of complex clauses involve the psychological verb think (cf. (120). In addition, Muhammed also produces complex clauses with subordinating conjunctions and wh-words (compare example (125) below).

In this narrative, we also find several repetitions, in which the activity or event expressed in the first place is described in more detail. Typically, these sequences involve the same verb combined with additional complements, compare (121).

Interrogation. Interrogative clauses not only occur more frequently in file 3, they also serve various functions. In this narrative, Muhammed often addresses the audience, to interact, to confirm, with the result that the narrative appears lively in style. The following examples illustrate the functions and types of questions produced.

Yes-no questions typically serve a rhetorical function as Muhammed addresses the audience, for example to enquire about the comprehension of the narrative event described (compare (122)). Further, Muhammed also produces single wh-word interrogations, such as the one provided in (123) serving the same narrative function (in the sense of an invitation to “guess what happened next”). Other similar sequences are discussed below (compare (133d) where the name of the boy is guessed). Typically, questions involving the wh-words what, why (cf. example (124)), or how (cf. example (125)) are used as a stylistic means to provide additional background information.

Complex classifier constructions. Compared with file 1, the file 3 narrative contains more detailed information about spatial locations and movements, including the expression of figure-ground relations via complex classifier constructions. The following sequence illustrates how these constructions are used in the description of a complex event, in which the boy bumps into a beehive he has not seen, with the effect that the beehive falls and the bees get out of it. After the introduction of the object (126c) (the beehive), including the rhetorical question to the audience of whether a beehive is known to them (cf. (126d,e)), the beehive is backgrounded through the h2-classifier in the description of the boy’s bumping into it (127 c) and the bees getting out of it in (127e).

Agreement verbs. Muhammed’s sophisticated narration of the frog story events in file 3 includes various constructions with agreement verbs, such as bite (cf. (120b) above), sting (compare example (128c)), help (compare example ((129c)) and give (compare example (130)). The verb forms correctly agree with the loci of the arguments encoded. The target-like use of agreement verbs, including the verb sting, can also be observed in complex constructions involving referential shift. In (128), the sign sting is modulated so as to agree with the shifted subject and object; in (129), in which the boy asks the dog to help him after he has fallen on the deer, the verb form help agrees with the shifted subject and object.

Example (131), another construction with the agreement verb sting, is an instance of a construction, in which the agreement relation is marked twice, once, through the modulation of the verb sting, and, in addition, through pam. At first sight, this double marking might be assumed to be an effect of the story context: previously, Muhammed has described the boy’s bumping into the beehive, a scene that was described without mentioning the presence of the dog. He goes on to describe how the bees get out of the beehive and how one of them stings the dog. While we might assume that this information is provided a posteriori in (131) so

as not to interrupt the story flow (at a moment at which the bees are the protagonists), we have to acknowledge that the object also appears after the agreement auxiliary pam in example (132), a predicate construction. Because elements are arranged in a target-deviant manner that is rather reminiscent of German main clause word order (VO), we are left to conclude that we are dealing with potential candidates for language mixing.

 
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