Structure and grammaticalization of serial verb constructions in sign language of the Netherlands-A corpus-based study

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Abstract

In serial verb constructions (SVCs), multiple independent lexical verbs are combined in a mono-clausal construction. SVCs express a range of grammatical meanings and are attested in numerous spoken languages all around the world. Yet, to date only few studies have investigated the existence and functions of SVCs in sign languages. For the most part, these studies-including a previous study on Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT)-relied on elicited data. In this article, we offer a cross-modal typological contribution to the study of SVCs by investigating the phenomenon based on naturalistic corpus data from NGT. A search of the Corpus NGT yielded 41 mono-clausal utterances in which one of a closed set of verbs-namely GO, GIVE, TAKE, and CALL-combines with another lexical verb. While the combinations we found are in important respects reminiscent of SVCs described for spoken languages, our data also confirm the previous finding that the fixed verb in the SVC serves to express agreement (by means of spatial modulation) when the other verb cannot do so. In addition, we identified some novel uses of the verbs GO and GIVE: (i) GO functioning as a future tense marker and (ii) GIVE functioning as a light verb. We will also discuss aspects of the grammaticalization of SVCs in NGT: from lexical verb to light verb to auxiliary, again offering some comparison to grammaticalization paths described for spoken languages.

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Couvee, S., & Pfau, R. (2018). Structure and grammaticalization of serial verb constructions in sign language of the Netherlands-A corpus-based study. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(JUL). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00993

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