Information structure in Russian Sign Language and Sign Language of the Netherlands
14 November 2014
Number of pages
Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
This dissertation explores Information Structure in two sign languages: Sign Language of the Netherlands and Russian Sign
Language. Based on corpus data and elicitation tasks we show how topic and focus are expressed in these languages. In particular,
we show that topics can be marked syntactically and prosodically (including non-manual markers) in both languages, although
some differences between the languages are also found. We also conclude that these languages are not topic prominent. As for
focus, certain syntactic and prosodic (manual and non-manual) markers can be used to mark it in both languages, although some
quantitative differences between the languages can be found. In addition, we analyze two mechanism previously linked to Information
Structure expression in other sign languages, namely doubling and weak hand holds. Doubling in both languages can be used
to express focus, emphasis, and foregrounding. Weak hand holds are used in a variety of functions, some of which are related
to topicality. We discuss the similarities and differences between the languages in the domain of Information Structure, as
well as typological implications of our findings. In addition, we assess the effects of the visual modality on expression
of Information Structure.
Research conducted at: Universiteit van Amsterdam
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