19/09/23 - Jenia Khristoforova (University of Amesterdam)

Title: "Exploring Complex Sentences in Sign Languages: A Case Study of the Sign Language of the Netherlands"

English with IS interpretation.

My name is Jenia Khristoforova; I am a 4th year PhD student in sign language linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. During this talk I will tell you about different types of complex sentences in the Sign Language of the Netherlands. Previously, many researchers wrongly assumed that sign languages do not generate complex sentences, as being structurally simplistic. However, in recent decades, research on sign language has shown that this is not the case. In this talk, I will tell about two types of so-called complement clauses, i.e. complex sentences with a clause as an object: control clauses, where there is only one main subject as in (1) and full propositional clauses with one main and one subordinate subject as in (2).

(1)    English:            The girl wants to [learn a sign language]

NGT:                girl want [learn sign language]

(2)    English:            The girl thinks [that sign language is amazing]

NGT                girl thinks [sign language amazing]

My recent research shows that there is a lot of variation between different signers regarding the order of signs in control clauses. For the first example above, there are two more possible sign orders preferred by some signers: girl [learn sign language] want and girl sign language want learn. Full propositional clauses, on the other hand, are only accepted if the subordinate clause follows the main clause, as in the second example above. The observed sign order patterns do not only suggest the structural complexity of NGT but also highlight sign language-specific properties of how this complexity manifests itself in the syntax of these two types of complex sentences.