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Analyses of DGS data and outline of the empirical chapters

In the investigation of the participants’ command of DGS we conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data. We have used the diagnostic criteria established in section 3.3 for the assessment of the main structural properties of DGS associated with the VP, IP, and CP levels respectively, including phenomena involving the syntax-discourse interface.[1]

Developmental profiles. Based on the results obtained concerning their DGS competence at the onset of the study (file 1) and further progress (file 3), we established a developmental profile for each participant. Individual profiles are summarised in a schematic manner following the template in Table 3.12. Because the mastery of several phenomena involves the syntax-discourse interface, the table includes a summarising evaluation of the participants’ command of these phenomena, in particular, choice of reference forms and functions they serve, referential establishment and maintenance, referential shift, simultaneous constructions and expression of spatial relations. Potential candidates for language mixing are provided in a separate line, shaded in grey.

Table 3.12: Template used for the sketch of participants’ DGS profiles.

Syntax-discourse interface


Simultaneous constructions


Expression of spatial relations


Fixed/shifted referential frameworks


Co-reference (referential establishment / maintenance)


Reference forms / functions


Referential shift (POV)




Embedded clauses



Complex classifier constructions




pam -agreement


Verb agreement


IP- headedness





(no evidence of grammatical processes)

Individual learner grammars. Presentations of developmental profiles are followed by a more in-depth discussion of the participants’ DGS competence at the onset of the study (file 1) and the progress they make (file 3), with a focus on the properties involving the levels of syntax, morphosyntax, and the syntax-discourse interface.

Quantitative and qualitative measures were used to assess the distribution of reference forms and their functions. For each file, the results obtained in a quan?titative measure of the distribution of reference forms used for each character are summarised according to the template sketched in Table 3.13. Reference forms were coded for whether they introduced, reintroduced or maintained reference to a character. Notice that the first column captures the distinction of referential functions (introduction, reintroduction and maintenance), the first line of the table distinguishes the main reference forms (np, det, pron, subject drop). The second level sets apart detart / pronpers. Relative proportions of reference forms serving specific functions are provided in separate tables and diagrams.

Table 3.13: Template used for the summary of results on the distribution of reference forms and their referential functions.


Character n


DETart / PRONpers

Subject drop






* detart occurs in combination with NP.

The results of a qualitative measure used to investigate whether participants managed to integrate information from different linguistic levels in their expression of spatial relations, namely, (a) morphosyntax (verb inflection), (b) syntax (word order), and (c) discourse (co-reference) are summarised in a schematic manner for each file, following the template sketched in Table 3.14. The table informs about the forms used for the expression of ground and figure respectively, the type of referential framework used to express the spatial relation, as well the type of verb used. Additionally, it includes information on antecedents where these are produced prior to complex classifier constructions.

Table 3.14: Template used for the summary of results on the expression of figure-ground relations.

Ground / figure

Reference forms


Ground [antecedent]



Verb/DET [activity]

  • [1] In 2006, the first preliminary findings obtained were presented in collaboration with KnutWeinmeister at the TISLR conference in Florianopolis, Brazil (cf. Plaza-Pust & Weinmeister2008). In that presentation we focused on what the preliminary findings revealed about developmentally constrained language contact phenomena. For the present study those preliminaryfindings have been subjected to a reanalysis. In addition we carried out qualitative and quantitative measures for the purpose of obtaining a more detailed picture of grammatical phenomena,on the one hand, and the syntax-discourse interaction, on the other hand. The latter dimension,not considered in the preliminary analysis turned out to be crucial for an appropriate understanding of what the data revealed about the particpants’ command of DGS.
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