In the preceding sections, we have been concerned with the analysis of the data with a view to determining the nature of the participants’ DGS competence. Because their command of this language needs to be understood also in relation to the organisation of their multilingual knowledge we have also been interested in establishing the scope and status of language contact phenomena in their DGS productions. For this dual purpose, we have used the diagnostic criteria identified in section 3.3 and the descriptive framework of the main properties of DGS and German developed in section 3.1 and section 4.1.

We turn next to a summarising discussion of the main findings. Based on our working hypothesis about the main developmental milestones in the acquisition of DGS we will proceed in a bottom-up fashion, focusing first on those grammatical phenomena that are associated with the IP before we turn to those characteristics that are linked to the CP. We then turn our attention to the mastery of the syntax-discourse interface, considering also more global narrative dimensions of cohesion and coherence. For ease of reference the sketch of the acquisition task presented in section 3.2 is provided here in Table 3.45.

Table 3.45: Acquisition of DGS: linguistic areas and related structures, processes, and properties.


Processes / properties


  • - fixed and shifted referential frameworks
  • - expression of spatial relations
  • - reference forms and functions
  • - co-reference (referential establishment/maintenance)


  • - interrogation, subordination, referential shift (POV)
  • - finiteness distinction (verb raising) feature checking, IP headedness
  • - projection of categorial-thematic structure,
  • - VP headedness
  • (CP-level)
  • (IP-level)
  • (VP-level)


- inflection morphology (first/non-first person distinction, classifier selection)


- distinction of agreement, spatial and plain verbs

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