Volume 23, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Demonstratives provide an important link between gesture, discourse and grammar due to their communicative function to coordinate the interlocutor’s focus of attention. This underlies their frequent cross-linguistic development into a wide range of function words and morphemes (Diessel 1999). The present study provides evidence for a link between gesture and grammar by tracking diachronic development of a relative clause marker in Israeli Sign Language (ISL) restrictive relative clauses, which starts as a gestural locative pointing sign, and grammaticalizes into a relative pronoun connecting relative and main clauses and agreeing with referent loci, and then into an invariant relativizer. Diachronic changes are inferred from the data collected from three generations of signers. The results reveal that the behavior of demonstratives in the data varied with the signers’ ages according to four diagnostic criteria of grammaticalization (e.g., Hopper & Traugott 2003): increased systematicity, distributional and morphological changes, and phonetic reduction.


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