Developmental profile: Simon

By assumption, the structure available to Simon at the onset of the study consists of a CP (cf. Table 3.20). Grammatical processes associated with the IP layer are operative, notably verb inflection. Complex sentential constructions involving POVs or constituent clauses provide support for the availability of the CP-struc- ture. However, there is only one single-wh-word interrogative clause in file 1. By the time of the production of file 3, in contrast, Simon skilfully uses complex structures to narrate the intricate events of the story. Some deficits that were observed concerning the interface between syntax and discourse in file 1 are not apparent anymore. However, referential identity continues to be difficult to establish, at times, indicating that deficits remain regarding the use of the sign space for narrative purposes.

DGS competence at the onset of the study


Word order. In file 1, Simon rarely produces sentential patterns, in which all arguments would be expressed overtly. Typically (cf. (145)), short (simple) sentences are used to narrate the activities of the main protagonist (= the boy) as he sets out to search the runaway frog. Subject and object drop is licensed in (145): the subject (the boy) has been reintroduced previously, at the beginning of the narrative passage, and the runaway frog is a discourse topic after the boy’s realisation of its disappearance, also recounted previously. Interestingly, the overt expression of subjects and/or objects in Simon’s file 1 narrative occurs in the context of repetitions. Typically, semi-repetitions such as the one in example (146) contain more details about the activity described in the original proposition (in (146c) the object complement is added).

Table 3.20: Simon’s DGS profile.



[no evidence]

Simultaneous constructions


Referential shift

[file 3]

Spatial relations


Reference forms / functions

[file 3]

Referential establishment / maintenance



[file 3]

2< > CALL+ : WHERE FROG ‘(He) calls ‘Where (is?) frog?’’

[file 1]

[single wh-words only]

Referential shift (POV)

[file 1]

1< >


‘(He = the boy) says, please (I want to) sleep.’

b. X< >


‘Ok, you (may) sleep.’



[file 1]


THEN [PRONpERS]1 NEXT MORNING SEE2 : GONE ‘Then, the morning after, (he = the boy) sees that (he = the frog) is gone.’




[file 3]


‘(They = the dog and the boy) like a frog.’

Complex classifier constructions

[file 1]

[- dom] cl:form (B-handshape)E

FALLCL:A- [+ dom] [SITCL:5]ON-E

‘(He = the boy) falls down, ending up sitting (like a horserider on something).’



[file 1]

1< >

nm: CL:BODY: bent forward, looking inside

[- dom ] [cl:form (hole)........]D

[+dom ] search. not [detexist]d/2.

‘(He = the boy) is looking for (the frog) in a hole. (He = the frog) is not there.’

Verb agreement

[file 1]


3 CL:l

‘Then the dog takes (it) ...’


‘(He) takes one from down there to their side.’



[file 1]

X< >

NEW FROG2 LOOK2++ ‘(He) is looking at a new frog.’


VP-headed- ness (SOV)

[file 1]

- see IP headedness -

Descriptions of spatial relations in which the ground is expressed lexically, as is the case in example (147a), represent additional evidence for Simon’s adherence to the target grammar. In (147a), the expression of the ground via a lexical antecedent prior to the production of a complex classifier predicate involving an h2-classifier derives an XV sequence. The observation that Simon only provides generic information about the ground is taken up below, when we discuss Simon’s expression of spatial relations.

Complex syntax: subordination. Simon produces several complex sentential constructions with the verb see, one of them with a constituent clause, when he narrates that the boy sees that the frog is gone (cf. (148)). In (149) we find the only instance of a sequence with a psychological verb in this file (cf. (149c)). However the meaning of the clause subordinated to the main clause with the matrix verb think remains unclear. Other complex constructions in this file involve referential shifts. We will elaborate on Simon’s sophisticated use of referential shifts below, when we discuss referential establishment and maintenance from a discourse perspective.

Complex syntax: Interrogation. Among the range of sentential patterns produced in file 1 we only find one instance of an interrogative wh-clause. Example (150b) is produced in the context of the scene where the boy hears somebody calling (as it turns out, he hears the frogs). Single wh-word interrogatives appear frequently in the narratives collected in this study, as we already remarked upon in our discussion of Muhammed’s narratives, where we could also see that they might serve a range of narrative functions.

Interrogative clauses such as the one produced by Simon in (150) conform to the target constraints (notice that (150b) is produced in the context of an SRF, in which the signer adopts the perspective of the boy, which is marked via a change in body orientation and eye gaze to the right) and are appropriate also from a discourse perspective. However, because we find only one instance in file 1 we consider that this is no sufficient evidence to conclusively establish whether the mechanisms for question formation are in place.

  • [1] X = partial mastery in file 3 (indicates inter-relation of referential shift, referential establishment and maintenance, reference forms / functions)
  • [2] X = partial mastery in file 3 (indicates inter-relation of referential shift, referential establishment and maintenance, reference forms / functions)
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