Quotation in sign languages

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Assuming that quoting utterances and thoughts is a universal property of natural languages, sign languages are also expected to have various linguistic means to mark quotation. Like spoken languages, sign languages have regular forms of indirect reported speech. However, sign languages mostly draw on a specific grammatical means for quotation called <i>role shift</i>. Role shift is a particularly interesting form of reported speech that combines properties of both direct and indirect speech. Based on a pilot corpus study, we discuss the formal and functional properties of role shift in German Sign Language (DGS). We argue that role shift can be analyzed as a nonmanual agreement operator that overtly agrees with the signer and the addressee of the reported utterance and triggers a context shift from the actual context to the context of the reported utterance.


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