Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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Productive signs in Swedish Sign Language come in many kinds. This paper concentrates on two groups. The first group describes entities in motion, expressing location and movement, like ‘a bird is sitting on a telephone line’ or ‘the boy jumps off a ledge’. I call these signs polysynthetic. The second group describes the size and shape of entities, like ‘a piece of A4 sized paper’. I call these signs size and shape specifying. In polysynthetic signs, which denote entities in movement situations, the manual articulation of the movement denotes the motion itself (e.g. movement or location) and the handshape denotes the entity as a classifier. This paper argues that there are two main types of classifiers used in polysynthetic signs to denote motion situations: agentive and non-agentive. In contrast to polysynthetic signs, in signs that specify size and shape of an object, the manual articulation (movement) denotes the extent of the largest dimension of the entity whereas the handshape denotes the extent of the smallest dimension of the entity being described. This description of classifiers, particularly agentive classifiers, in Swedish Sign Language polysynthetic signs differs from those offered for other sign languages because it is based on the salient properties of the part of the entity that is to be handled. Other descriptions are based on the entity’s appearance. Another difference is that I offer my own description of the dimensionality of entities (inspired by Bierwisch 1967). I will show how a handshape with different orientation denotes different dimensions. I will demonstrate that the agentive classifier handshapes in polysynthetic signs and the handshapes in size and shape specifying signs are chosen according to the same dimensions.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): agent; classifier; handshape; size and shape; Swedish Sign Language
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