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Referential establishment and maintenance. In file 1, Hamida uses several linguistic means to establish and maintain reference. Worthy of mention is Hami- da’s use of detexist in those sequences in which she reports about the frog and his purported location (compare examples (251) and (253) above, and (258)). Referential loci established via this determiner are correctly picked up in subsequent sequences containing related agreement verb forms (recall the example recounting the boy’s waving at the frog family in (255)).
In this narrative, Hamida produces two constructions with determiners that are associated with a locus at a location toward her right, where the story pictures are displayed. In one of these utterances (cf. (259)), produced at the beginning of the narration, the main protagonist (the boy) is associated with this locus. Later in the narrative, the boy is reintroduced through a pronoun associated with the same locus (compare (260)).
It is important to note that throughout the narrative Hamida looks to the pictures at her right several times. Part of the omissions of specifications concerning referents or ground elements may result from her strategy of describing the events represented on the pictures in a manner that presupposes the audience’ acquaintance with these pictures. This might be one aspect to take into consideration in the interpretation of the propositions in (261) which involve the verb stop and the verb bark. By assumption, in (261) the dog is addressing the deer, urging him to stop running (with the boy on his neck). Hamida uses a shifted referential framework to recount the dog’s activity. However, the referential shift follows the narration of the boy’s falling from the deer. So, once again, the addressee of the dog’s urge is not expressed overtly. Neither can it be retrieved from the immediate narrative context. Consequently, the audience is left to infer it from the picture book.
From a more global, narrative perspective, it becomes apparent that referential ambiguity results from the circumstance that Hamida does not always establish loci contrastively in the sign space. Because she typically marks referential shift through a body lean forward or backward, without a distinguished use of either locus on the vertical axis, referential ambiguity arises where no lexically overt reference form is used as an additional means to indicate the identity of the agent of the action.
For further illustration consider examples (262) and (263), succeeding each other in Hamida’s recount of the frog’s escape and the boy’s realisation of his disappearance. In (262)) she adopts the perspective of the frog to narrate his escape (no specification of the location the frog is leaving from is provided, though). In addition to a body lean forward the subject NP (frog) is used to signal the POV, with the effect that referential identity of the subject in this case is clear. Now, in example (263), Hamida uses the same non-manual markings to signal POVs involving the boy as a subject. No lexically overt reference form is used in this case, so that referential identity remains potentially ambiguous.
Reference forms and functions. We have remarked previously, that referential identity remains ambiguous at times in Hamida’s file 1 narrative, in particular, where referential shifts involving different protagonists succeed each other. Hamida chooses NPs not only to introduce new referents. NPs are also predominantly chosen in reintroduction contexts (with a relative percentage of 53.8 out of the total of 17.3% of reference forms serving this function, cf. Table 3.36). Subject drop in narrative episodes involving the reintroduction of the boy or the frog is also a frequent option, which is reflected in the referential ambiguity remarked upon previously. With a relative percentage of 96.4 subject drop clearly is the option of choice in those narrative passages that involve the same protagonist.
Table 3.36: Reference forms and functions in Hamida’s file 1.*
* 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-9.
Figure 3.9: Proportion of reference forms and functions in Hamida’s file 1.
Expression of spatial relations. We have remarked previously that Hamida is sparing in her provision of background information. As a consequence, cause-effect relations or the temporal relation of narrative events remain implicit and can only be inferred by those in the audience who are acquainted with the plot of the story. Also, scrutinising the narrative for spatial relations reveals that Hamida does not provide specific information on the ground in her description of narrative events, either in terms of locative complements or information backgrounded through h2-classifiers. Rather, spatial relations remain largely unexpressed (compare the overview provided in Table 3.37). Hence, for example, it remains unclear where the frog escapes from (compare example (262) above), although we get to know that he climbs out of something. Also, Hamida does not mention that the owl suddenly appears out of the hole in the tree the boy has been looking into, because the nature and the location of this opening (or hole) were never specified in the first place. Finally, the falling of the boy caused by the deer’s motion remains unclear because the signer has not mentioned that the boy has fallen onto its neck.
Table 3.37: Expression of figure-ground relations in Hamida’s file 1.
Hamida’s sparing use of background information might be due, in part, to her preference, at this stage, for a narration of the story events via SRFs. The body as a classifier is used for the description of protagonists’ activities, and information on spatial relations, where it is provided, is expressed via generic classifier elements. From a narrative perspective, the effect is that Hamida’s narration remains “impressionistic”, as the characters’ activities are recounted in a sketchy way and temporal and causal relations remain to be inferred by the audience. For further illustration, consider example (264). In this sequence, Hamida recounts that the dog looks into some type of opening (a hole?). Notice that the POV contains no specific information on the location; we might only infer that there is an opening of some sort because the two-handed cl:form produced indicates the shape of a container (non-manual means, that is, body lean forward, are used to inform about the boy looking closely into the location).
Mixed perspectives. Some narrative passages document the use of a mixed perspective, that is, protagonists’ activities are described from both the narrator and the character’s perspective. This is the case in (265b,c), for example, in which additional information on the original activity (the boy’s looking into an opening, probably a tree hole, but this is not mentioned explicitly), expressed previously in the context of an SRF, is provided from a narrator perspective via signs produced with the dominant hand while non-manual markers and the discourse buoy produced by the non-dominant hand are used to express the boy’s continued looking into the hole.
Our preceding observations allow for the conclusion that Hamida is a very creative narrator. Her narrative is full of recounts of the characters’ remarks, emotions and activities. Notice, in addition, that her narration also includes comments from a narrator’s perspective, such as her comment on the deer’s antlers’ similarity with a tree (rather, the branches) (compare (266)). However, while she indicates this way that she fully understands the boy’s misperception, the boy’s misperception as such is not picked out as a theme. From a narrative perspective, this mismatch is characteristic of Hamida’s narration in file 1.