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GIVE or TAKE: Transitivity prominence of Finnish Sign Language and Swedish Sign Language verbs
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Sign Language.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0612-6304
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Sign Language.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7549-4648
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we apply methodology presented in Kimmelman (2016) and investigate the transitivityprominence of verbs in Finnish Sign Language (FinSL) and Swedish Sign Language (SSL). Specifically,we ask how similar or different FinSL and SSL verbs are in terms of their transitivity prominence,and how the transitivity prominence of FinSL and SSL verbs compares with that of verbs inother languages. The term transitivity prominence refers to the relative frequency with which a verboccurs with an object. Haspelmath (2015) has shown that in spoken languages, verbs form a rankedcontinuum between those that are highly transitivity prominent and those that occur with no objectat all. Recently, Kimmelman (2016) has argued that Haspelmath's ranking applies also to the verbsof Russian Sign Language (RSL).Our investigation is based on annotated corpus data comprising narratives, conversations andpresentations. For FinSL, we use material from 20 signers (2h 40min, 18446 sign tokens) and forSSL from 28 signers (1h 54min, 15186 sign tokens). From this data, we identified 18 verb lexemeswhich all have enough tokens and which are all comparable between languages. In FinSL, the totalnumber of verb tokens is 745 and in SSL the corresponding number is 579. All the verbs were annotatedfor overt direct and indirect objects and for overt clausal complements. The annotation workwas carried out by different annotators following common guidelines.Concerning the results, our data suggests that there are clear similarities in what verbs rankhighest (e.g. GIVE, TAKE) and what lowest (e.g. HAPPY, COLD) in terms of their transitivity prominencein FinSL and SSL. On the basis of Haspelmath (2015) and Kimmelman (2016), these are thesame verbs that are ranked highest and lowest also in spoken languages and in RSL (Table 1).However, the data also shows that certain verbs (e.g. SEARCH, TALK, PLAY) may differ considerablyin the position they occupy in the ranking. Although some of these differences can be assumed to betrue differences between languages, we suspect that some may, despite our best efforts, be traceableback to issues relating to the type of data as well as to the way the samples were formed and objectsannotated. In our presentation, we will present the results of our comparative study and discuss thedata and methodology-related issues in more detail.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Sign Language
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-147233OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-147233DiVA: diva2:1142544
Conference
Corpus-based approaches to sign language linguistics: Into the second decade, CL2017 pre-conference workshop, Birmingham, UK, July 24, 2017
Available from: 2017-09-19 Created: 2017-09-19 Last updated: 2017-09-21Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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Language
  • de-DE
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  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
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  • Other locale
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