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TISLR- International Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research, Date: 2000/07/23 - 2000/07/27, Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2000-01


Vermeerbergen, Myriam


Flemish Sign Language, Sign Linguistics, constituent order in signed languages, grammar of Flemish Sign Language


The study reported on in this paper is meant as a follow-up to and -more importantly- an expansion of the analysis described in the paper entitled “The Repetition of Signs in Flemish Sign Language” (Vermeerbergen&De Vriendt, 1994). The expansion involves not only an increase in the number of examples for the different (sub)types of repetitions already discussed in the previous analysis, but also an increase in the number of different (sub)types. Whereas the repetition of verbs, for instance, was not discussed in the previous study, ample attention is now devoted to both lexical verbs and “classifier predicates”. For each of the grammatical categories under discussion it is verified whether in case of a repetition the two occurrences of the same sign(s) are similar or different in form, which position they take and –of course- what could be the (functional) motivation for the repetition. Although in general the occurrence of repetitions has drawn/draws little attention in the sign language literature, we can find some tentative explanations. With regard to “non-verbs” “emphasis” is the most frequently mentioned motivation; with regard to two (non-identical) realisations of verbs Fischer&Jannis (1990) state that for American Sign Language there is a limit to the amount of information that one (occurrence of the) verb can carry. In Flemish-Belgian Sign Language emphasis and “splitting off too heavy information” are possible explanations for a limited number of cases of reduplication only. In previous studies of repetitions in Flemish-Belgian Sign Language –including the one reported on in Vemeerbergen&De Vriendt (1994)- it remained unclear what the explanation was for the larger number of repetitions. Currently, much more examples can be explained. These explanations only become clear, however, when one investigates the issue of repetitions from within the larger framework of word order issues.