Investigating Understudied Sign Languages - Croatian SL and Austrian SL, with comparison to American SL
  • ISSN 1387-9316
  • E-ISSN: 1569-996X
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In this study, we investigate the interrogative structures in Croatian Sign Language (HZJ) with respect to the word order, manual question words, and nonmanual markers and their scope. Both polar and content questions mainly use specific nonmanual markers to indicate interrogative function. Polar questions use chin down and content questions use chin up as their prominent nonmanual markers. In addition to these markers, brows up occurs in both constructions leading to the suggestion that brows up may be a general question marker in HZJ. Brows down can also occur, particularly in content questions. Other nonmanual markers that appear in polar questions are head forward, and eyes wide open and those in content questions are head forward, headshake, shoulders up, and eyes closed. Both interrogative constructions use manual question words. Polar questions can use an optional manual sign je-li that was probably introduced to HZJ through Signed Croatian. je-li is not connected to the peak intensity of the nonmanual markers and we consider it to be an adjunct to the question structure. Content words are used in most HZJ content interrogatives. Question words can be represented by specific signs or can be formed by the content sign ‘5’ (i.e. handshape 5 or b-th moving side-to-side). This ‘5’ sign is further specified by mouthing the particular question word from spoken Croatian. Content words can appear in sentence initial, sentence final or both positions. In content questions, question words bear the highest peak of nonmanual intensity, thus we consider them to be operating as operators. Recent research shows that HZJ shares some features with Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS) because in the 19th century, Croatian deaf students attended Vienna’s Institute for the Deaf (Schalber this volume; Šarac 2003; Šarac et al in press). Upon finishing their education, they would return back to Croatia. Similarities between HZJ and ÖGS are found in their interrogative nonmanual markings but not in their syntactic structures. This can be seen by the fact that these two sign languages do not have the same canonical word order.


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