Perspectives on Classifier Constructions in Sign Language

By Karen Emmorey | Go to book overview

2
Noun and Verbal Classifiers
in Swedish Sign Language*
Brita Bergman
Lars Wallin
Stockholm University

Swedish Sign Language has a set of noun classifiers, that is, morphemes typically occurring after the noun in constructions like ONE MAN CL-PERSON ('a man') and MIRROR CL-SQUARE ('a mirror'; Bergman & Wallin, 2001). Swedish Sign Language also has a set of classificatory bound (handshape) morphemes used in polysynthetic constructions denoting motion and location (Wallin 1990, 1996), i.e., verbal classifiers in terms of Craig's classifier typology (Craig 1992). In the following, we argue that verbal classifiers in addition to being used in full predicates are used in formationally related constructions with a referring function, thereby sharing some characteristics with noun classifiers. As will be evident, observation of nonmanual features, such as gaze direction and mouth actions, is crucial to the analysis of constructions of both types.


NOUN CLASSIFIERS

In an earlier study, we showed that Swedish Sign Language has a set of noun classifiers, i.e., free morphemes typically occurring after a noun in constructions like ONE MAN CL-PERSON ('a man') and MIRROR CL-SQUARE ('a mirror') (Bergman & Wallin, 2001). 1 Noun classifiers are formationally related to nouns and/or to size-and-shape-specifying predicates, but clearly distinguished from them in meaning, distribution, and co-occurring nonmanual features. Compare examples (1) and (2):

(1)eyes: +C——————— hands: EXIST MIRROR CL-SQUARE mouth: spegel——— There was a mirror (in the bathroom).

____________________
*
Note Transcription Conventions at end of chapter text before reading chapter.

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