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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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DGS competence at the onset of the study

Syntax

Word order variation. The analysis of Fuad’s file 1 narrative regarding word order reveals that many of his utterances only consist of a verb. Though limited in number, sequences with overtly expressed locative complements provide evidence for variation at the level of word order. Consider, for example, verb placement in examples (212) and (213). In (212), the locative complement providing information on the location of the search appears after the plain verb search. Word order in this clause is not target-like but is rather reminiscent of how elements would be arranged in an equivalent German (or LBG) utterance. Hence this sequence is a potential candidate for borrowing. It must be noted, however, that we also find utterances in this narrative with a target-like verb placement in sentence-final position, as it is the case in (213), part of a sequence we will discuss in more detail below.

Additional indications of word order variation in Fuad’s file 1 become apparent in sequences such as the one provided in (214), in which the boy and the dog are reported to see that the frog is gone. Interestingly, several repairs succeed each other in (214), after the first production of the verb disappear in (214b). We might speculate that what appears to be a referential repair (for the purpose of specifying further who disappeared) winds up in a sequence that is deviant at the level of word order because, in the end, the subject appears after the verb - as if postponed (note, in addition, that the editing expression in (214d) might be taken as an indication of Fuad’s monitoring of the utterance).

Furthermore, it also becomes apparent that, in some cases, sentence boundaries are difficult to establish in Fuad’s file 1, which is a particularly critical issue in an analysis where adherence to the target word order is at stake. In our view, this imposes caution on the interpretation of potentially ambiguous sequences. For further illustration, we might consider the sequence in (215) containing a series of elements which, depending on the analysis, would be appear to be arranged in a target-like or a target-deviant manner. Notice that reference to the protagonists involved in the two activities mentioned occurs overtly between the two verb forms. There is no apparent pause in the production of the signs, and there are neither lexical elements that would help establish a sentence boundary (notice that then connects this sequence with the previous event, but is not used to establish a temporal relation between the activity of the protagonists’ sleeping and their waking up). Now, if we interpreted “boy and dog” as the subject of the first predicate, sleep, a target-deviant VS order would obtain; by contrast, if we assumed that “boy and dog” is the subject of the second predicate, wake-up, we would conclude that (215) consists of two target-like clauses. The problem with this interpretation is that the sequence is somewhat infelicitous from a narrative perspective because the identity of the agents of the first activity remains unspecified at first and can only be recovered cataphorically (that is, by assuming identical reference in (215a-b)).[1] What could tilt a decision between the two options in favour of the latter is the observation that additional information on subjects or complements often occurs a posteriori, in the context of repetitions. So, while the verb in (215b) is not the same as in (215a), the provision of an overt subject patterns with the recurrent phenomenon of providing further specifications in a second proposition in other instances of repetitions.

What the previous observations make apparent is that there is some evidence in Fuad’s file 1 for variation regarding the arrangement of constituents in a clause. The coexistence of alternative structural patterns, as we explained in section

2.2.3.1 can be taken as an indication of the dynamics that underlie the organisation of multilingual knowledge.

Complex sentential constructions. Fuad produces several complex sentences in file 1. Example (216), in which we learn that the frog wants to get out of the jar, documents the use of a complex sentential construction with the modal verb like-to. In (217a) Fuad produces a complex sentence with a constituent clause selected by the verb hear. Notice that this sequence and the utterances that follow in the description of the narrative episode, in which the boy finally finds the frogs sitting behind a log, involve a shift of the referential framework as the signer adopts the perspective of the boy.

The POVs in (217a-c) are signalled through a change in body orientation and eye gaze direction (to the right). In (217d-f) the boy addresses the dog, requesting him to be quiet. Fuad marks agreement with this referent non-manually, through a change in body orientation and eye gaze (to the left, leaning forward) (note that the dog is referred to explicitly in (217f)). We provide only the first clause of the subsequent event (about the boy’s spotting of the frogs) in (217g) to indicate that Fuad changes body orientation and eye gaze direction yet another time (to the right), to narrate the boy’s discovery of the frogs behind the log.

Clearly, these complex constructions not only reveal Fuad’s use of non-manual means to signal and mark referential shifts, we can also see that agreement is marked appropriately and referential loci are established in a contrastive manner. We will see below, when we discuss the gaps that remain in the use of referential shifts from a narrative perspective that referential identity is not always clear. For present purposes, however, we might conclude that the complex clauses produced, including those that involve referential shift, reflect Fuad’s command of the full sentential structure. POVs are chosen where this is required by the selective properties of the verbs involved, for example in (221c) below where the boy pushes the tree, or in constructions with the verb see (cf. (214a) above).

Interrogation. Unfortunately, the narrative produced in file 1 does not contain any evidence concerning question formation.

  • [1] In a previous paper, we interpreted this sequence as an instance of XVS. Here we call intoquestion our earlier analysis while pointing out the ambiguity of the sequence and the problematic status from a discourse perspective.
 
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