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Referential establishment and maintenance. Muhammed demonstrates a more advanced command of the linguistic devices used for referential establishment and maintenance. If the location of the picture book was used as a substitute locus for the main protagonist (the boy) in the first narrative, this strategy is not used anymore at this stage. All loci are established consistently and contrastively in the sign space.
In file 3, Muhammed uses determiners productively to establish and to maintain reference. The sequence in (133) documents a sophisticated use of different determiners to refer to a story protagonist, the audience or the signer himself:
Furthermore, we can see in (134) that Muhammed pays attention to an unambiguous interpretation of reference: the use of pron in a request expressed in a reported dialogue context is followed by the use of an NP in the repetition of the original request, probably with the purpose of further clarification about the referent referred to via the non-first person pron (that is, the dog). Another example of the correct use of pronouns in SRF contexts is provided in (135), where the parents of the boy are telling him that he may go to sleep.
Finally, (136) documents in a remarkable way how Muhammed uses a full array of linguistic devices to ensure referential identity in a sequence, in which
the boy is reintroduced as a protagonist: in addition to the choice of a generic noun boy, he uses the proper name he previously assigned to this character and an article determiner (detart).
Referential loci. While loci are established contrastively to the right and in front of the signer at the beginning of the narrative (associated, respectively, with the boy to the signer’s right, and the frog with the locus in front of him), new associations are established in the course of the narrative as the number of protagonists and the use of SRFs to describe their activities increase. The analysis of the loci chosen reveals the following pattern:
As we can see in the sequences provided in example (137), the locus associated with the frog changes from a location at the centre of the sign space to a location to the right in (137d). By assumption, this reassignment, which occurs after the signer’s comment in (137 c) concerning the lack of water in the jar (associated with the locus at the centre of the sign space), is produced to avoid confusion between reference to the jar and the frog.
Reference forms and functions. Because referential shifts are abundant, perspective changes have to be marked unambiguously, so as not to confuse the audience. As we pointed out previously, Muhammed exploits the full range of linguistic means for this purpose. From a narrative perspective it is interesting to note, as we can glean from Table 3.18, that introduction and reintroduction of characters occurs predominantly via NPs, as it was already the case in file 1. While pronouns are occasionally used to refer to the same referent in a series of events involving the same character, null subjects predominate. Finally, if we compare the distribution of function-form relations obtained for file 3 (cf. Figure 3.2) with that of file 1 (cf. Figure 3.1 above) the similar distribution of reference forms and functions is certainly striking (compare Table 3.16 above with Table 3.18).
Table 3.18: Reference forms and functions in Muhammed’s file 3.*
* Expressed as a percentage of the total number of reference forms (proportions of forms used for respective function in brackets). Absolute numbers are provided in the Appendix Table C-2.
Figure 3.2: Proportion of reference forms and functions in Muhammed’s file 3.
Shifted reference. Muhammed’s file 3 narrative documents a sophisticated use of SRFs for narrative purposes. Narrator and character perspectives are skilfully chosen to describe the activities and emotions of the characters in more detail. The sequence in (138), for example, is produced after the description of the frog’s scare about the dog’s teeth in (124) above. Subsequent to that complex sequence, Muhammed goes on to narrate that the frog does not know the dog (cf. (138a)) and is scared about the whole situation, sitting in the jar, being observed by the boy and the dog, which is why he looks around with unease (cf. (138b)). Notice that this proposition is expressed through manual and non-manual means, as the handshape used corresponds with the one of the sign frog and the activity (looking around with unease) is expressed non-manually (body orientation from left to right and back to the left, facial expression of scare).
Non-manual components, agreement and pronouns are appropriately used in shifted referential frameworks. Compared with file 1, the rapid change of perspectives is easier to follow as referential shifts are marked more clearly. Typically, non-manual means marking POVs involve a change in body orientation (body lean forward/backward, or left/right body rotation) and eye gaze direction (upward/ downward or left/right).
Finally, (139) is a remarkable example illustrating the orchestration of manual and non-manual means to mark referential shifts (in particular, the use of body orientation [left/right], and head-orientation [top/down]). In this narrative episode, the frog parents first confirm to the small frog that he is right (he was the frog who formerly belonged to the boy), then they turn to the boy, tell him that he might have one frog and give it to him; finally they wave to the boy, and the boy, in turn, waves to them.
Simultaneous constructions. Interestingly, Muhammed produces some constructions in which the simultaneity of events is expressed through mixed perspectives. A remarkable example is provided in (140). In this example, Muhammed’s information about the frog sitting in the jar, looking up to the boy, is expressed through an SRF from the perspective of the frog. Object agreement of the verb form look, with the boy as the object argument, is expressed (a) lexically (right hand) and (b) through shifted reference via eye gaze (to the right) and (c) body orientation (to the right). At the same time (while keeping body orientation to the right and retaining the lexical sign on hold on the right hand), the signer adopts the narrator perspective to explain that the frog does not know what the boy is up to, which is expressed through signs produced with the left hand (the negation element being produced simultaneously non-manually -head-nod- and manually - via the sign not). In a similar way, in example (141) the boy’s hearing of the frog and the information about its location are expressed simultaneously.
Throughout the narrative, Muhammed produces several such simultaneous constructions, which not only show an advance level of sign language competence but also advanced narrative skills as the signer is expressing the simultaneity of events.
Expression of spatial relations. Finally, turning to the expression of figure-ground relations (compare Table 3.19), the analysis reveals that although more information on the ground is included in the file 3 narrative the information remains vague in some instances. Some narrative episodes are recounted without any specification on the ground (for example, in the deer scene, Muhammed does not narrate that the boy falls on the deer). As a consequence, some cause-effect relations remain implicit, with the effect that only the audience acquainted with the frog story might fully understand the events described. By assumption, the omission of the background information is an effect of the presence of the story booklet during the elicitation of the data.
Table 3.19: Expression of figure-ground relations in Muhammed’s file 3.
Table 3.19: continued