Journal Article

Nouns and Verbs in Australian Sign Language: An Open and Shut Case?

Trevor Johnston

in The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education

Volume 6, issue 4, pages 235-257
Published in print October 2001 | ISSN: 1081-4159
Published online October 2001 | e-ISSN: 1465-7325 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/deafed/6.4.235
Nouns and Verbs in Australian Sign Language: An Open and Shut Case?

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Results of the noun-verb pair comprehension and production tests from the Test Battery for Auslan Morphology and Syntax (Schembri et al., 2000) are re-presented, re-analyzed, and compared to data from two other cases also dealing with noun-verb pairs: the Auslan lexical database and a comparison of Auslan and American Sign Language (ASL) signs. The data elicited through the test battery and presented in this article confirm the existence of formationally related noun-verb pairs in Auslan in which the verb displays a single movement and the noun displays a repeated movement. The data also suggest that the best exemplars of noun-verb pairs of this type in Auslan form a distinct set of iconic (mimetic) signs archetypically based on inherently reversible actions (such as opening and shutting). This strong iconic link perhaps explains why the derivational process appears to be of limited productivity, though it does appear to have "spread" to a number of signs that appear to have no such iconicity. There appears to be considerable variability in the use of the derivational markings, particularly in connected discourse, even for signs of the "open and shut" variety. Overall, the derivational process is apparently still closely linked to an iconic base, is incipient in the grammar of Auslan, and is thus best described as only partially grammaticalized.

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Subjects: Education ; Linguistics ; Teaching of Specific Groups and Special Educational Needs

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