17.3627, Diss: Lang Description/Ling Theories/Typology: Sapountzaki: 'Free F...'

Thu Dec 7 18:13:41 UTC 2006

LINGUIST List: Vol-17-3627. Thu Dec 07 2006. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 17.3627, Diss: Lang Description/Ling Theories/Typology: Sapountzaki: 'Free F...'

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Date: 07-Dec-2006
From: Galini Sapountzaki < gsapountz at uth.gr >
Subject: Free Functional Elements of Tense, Aspect, Modality and Agreement as Possible Auxiliaries in Greek Sign Language 

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2006 13:10:25
From: Galini Sapountzaki < gsapountz at uth.gr >
Subject: Free Functional Elements of Tense, Aspect, Modality and Agreement as Possible Auxiliaries in Greek Sign Language 

Institution: University of Bristol 
Program: Centre for Deaf Studies 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2005 

Author: Galini Sapountzaki

Dissertation Title: Free Functional Elements of Tense, Aspect, Modality and
Agreement as Possible Auxiliaries in Greek Sign Language 

Linguistic Field(s): Language Description
                     Linguistic Theories

Subject Language(s): Greek Sign Language (gss)

Language Family(ies): Deaf Sign Language

Dissertation Director(s):
Rachel Sutton-Spence

Dissertation Abstract:

This study investigates whether there is a consistent category of
auxiliaries for Tense, Aspect and Modality (TAM) marking or Agreement in
Greek Sign Language (GSL). It deals only with unbound grammatical markers
(as opposed to lexical) markers, although where it is necessary, bound
morphemes of TAM are also briefly discussed. These are described and
compared with their possible counterparts in other signed and spoken
languages, and their characteristics are examined in the scope of
cross-linguistic tendencies. From the scope of sign language linguistics, a
study of free-signed elements provides additional insight into the linear
(i.e. sequential) grammatical properties of GSL. Simultaneous
constructions, including the polysynthetic and non-concatenative nature of
signed languages have been the focus of research (Stokoe, 1978; Kyle &
Woll, 1985; Wallin, 1990; Webster, 1994) and some linear linguistic
features of signed languages might need further exploration. 

Findings from the study indicate that GSL has signs that attach to the
verb, similar to auxiliaries in spoken Greek or English. Characteristics of
auxiliaries such as systematic use, use across all groups of verbs, load of
semantic content, as they are illustrated in classic studies on
cross-linguistic tendencies (Greenberg, 1968; Steele, 1978) provide the
framework needed to identify potential members of a category of auxiliaries
in GSL. Findings from research in wide samples of languages test the
initial claim of a closed category AUX and imply that there is a broader,
open-ended category of functional TAM and agreement markers, some members
of which are finally 'drawn' into a closed class of AUX, often just to move
further into grammaticising as free or bound markers. Such are the semantic
approaches of Bybee (1985), Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca (1994), Dahl (1984),
Heine (1994) among others; using this framework, I discuss items in GSL
that are at different stages in this continuum of grammaticisation, by
means of examining the degree of desemanticisation, decategorisation,
phonological reduction, and possible metaphorical shifts. Besides, GSL free
functional TAM and agreement markers are compared to markers of languages
that belong to different families: Chinese, a language typical for the
absence of functional words; Arabic, typical for its rich inflectional
morphology; Modern Greek and English, languages with a long written
tradition; Creole languages, young and artificial to an extent; last but
not least, GSL is compared to a set of other signed languages, all show
similar characteristics as to the semantic notions and processes for
content words / signs that evolve into auxiliaries, or into functional TAM
or Agreement markers. Indications of gestural roots of several GSL markers
are examined along with processes of metaphor and force dynamics in signed
and spoken languages, and metaphorical processes in GSL seem compatible to
findings from language universals. In this way, some apparent idiosyncratic
processes of visual languages are found to comply to cross-linguistic
tendencies irrespectively of the differences in modality. Some Creole
characteristics and language contact phenomena also seem to follow
cross-linguistic tendencies and their outcomes are more or less as expected
by the patterns of borrowing between languages in the areas of TAM and
Agreement. The use made of Greek mouthings in the area of TAM and Agreement
is an exceptional example of assimilated loans between a language in visual
modality and another in an oral/aural modality. Perhaps the only clear
indication of modality-dependent features in the evolution of auxiliaries
in the study is polysynthetic, non-concatenative evolution of GSL, and
possibly of other signed languages. 

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