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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This paper focuses on the basic word order of Croatian Sign Language (HZJ) and factors that permit alternative word orders to occur in sentences and in context. Although they are unrelated languages, the basic word order in HZJ is the same as in spoken Croatian: SVO. One of the factors allowing alternative word orders in context is information status (old or new), which influences constituent placement, as in other languages. HZJ has a tendency to omit old, previously mentioned information, usually the Subject, and the part that is expressed is the new information (Rheme). When old information is expressed, it appears at the beginning of the sentence, preceding the Rheme. Like other languages, HZJ word order can be influenced by the nature of the arguments (Subject, Object) as well as the type of Verb. Sentences with ‘reversible’ arguments (i.e. both are animate and could be agents) tend to use the basic word order, whereas those with nonreversible arguments allow more variable word order. Basic word order also occurs more often with plain verbs (those that do not agree with their arguments). Agreeing and spatial verbs use other word orders in addition to SVO, including the tendency to position Verbs at the end of sentences. Investigation on the interaction of word order and the grammatical usage of facial expressions and head positions (nonmanual marking) indicates that nonmanual markings have pragmatic roles, and could have syntactic functions which await further research.


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