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Agreement verbs. Regarding grammatical processes associated with the availability of functional projections above the VP, the analysis reveals that Christa correctly inflects spatial and agreement verbs in fixed and shifted referential frameworks. Agreement verbs such as look-at are marked appropriately (cf. example (285)) to encode their arguments, as are classifier verbs such as hold).
Spatial verbs. Classifier elements in spatial verbs of motion are appropriately selected to agree with the arguments encoded. This is the case in example (286) involving the verb fall, and also in complex spatial predicates, such as the one discussed below (compare (293)) in which we learn about the frog’s escape out of a container. Notice, in addition, that detexist is used to mark the locus of the location into which the boy falls, whereby the sign fall is modulated appropriately, to agree with this location.
Christa’s file 1 narrative documents her command of the linguistic devices used to establish and maintain reference. Nevertheless, referential identity of the agents involved remains ambiguous at times, which can be taken as an indication that the syntax-discourse interface is not fully mastered yet.
Referential establishment and maintenance. Example (287) is illustrative of how reference is maintained throughout the recounting of a narrative passage, in which referential frameworks are skilfully shifted to describe how the characters find the runaway frog behind a log: first, the location at which the boy is going to find the frog is established in (287a) via detexist and detloc, within a fixed referential framework. Subsequently, Christa switches to a shifted referential framework to provide further details about how the boy and the frog come together. Notice that object agreement is marked through manual and non-manual means as body orientation and eye gaze direction correspond with the locus established via detexist in (287a).
Another phenomenon that deserves to be mentioned in this context concerns Christa use of pronouns picking up a locus associated with the location of the story book pictures (to her right) to refer to the boy. Notice that the use of pronpers in (288a) is followed by the use of a full NP in (288b) to indicate that it is the boy’s activities she is describing now. This way, the potential ambiguity of the pronoun in (288a) is cleared up. The pronoun referring to the boy who picks up the baby frog in (289) is associated with the same locus.
It must be noted in this context that Christa frequently checks the elicitation material (the story pictures) while she continues to recount the story. Hence, body orientation and eye gaze direction need to be understood not only in rela?tion to her shifting of referential frameworks but also in relation her turning to the side where the pictures are displayed. By assumption, this way of recounting the story (rather than from memory) affects Christa’s choice of referential loci and non-manual means to mark referential identity, as she pays less attention to an accurate choice of the loci she picks up. Indeed, both the beginning point of the sign put and the orientation of the sign wave in (289) are associated with a locus slightly to the right, at eye level, which differs from the locus established previously for the frogs, when Christa recounted that the boy found the frog behind the log (locus slightly to the right, at the bottom). Though referential maintenance is not affected by Christa’s choice, because no other referents have been associated with loci on the right side of the signer, the discrepancy observed reveals a rather sloppy narrative style, particularly toward the end of the narrative.
Referential ambiguities. Christa makes extensive use of referential shifts in this narrative. However, changes in perspective are not always marked explicitly. And there is one narrative episode (see (290)), for which it is difficult to establish the agent of the activities described. By assumption, this is the dog, but it must be noted that the dog is explicitly introduced as a character only relatively late in the narrative - after the problematic sequence described next. Notice that in (290), which follows the recounting of the boy’s looking into a tree hole, we learn that somebody climbs up an object. What makes it difficult to understand the subsequent sequences is that the object described next, with a round shape is not specified any further. We can only speculate on it being a beehive because Christa reports that a bee gets out of it (admittedly, this conclusion is a bit at odds with the idea that somebody would “go” or “climb up” a beehive, as it seems to the case in (290a), but Christa might rather have aimed at recounting that somebody put his paws on this object, as it is depicted on the story book picture). The subject of the sequence, the one climbing up the round shaped object and being followed by the bee is not specified, which might erroneously lead to the interpretation that it is the boy. Only because Christa finally recounts that the dog’s backside is aching, we might infer that it has been the dog who bothered the bee.
Finally, it must be noted that some sequences are difficult to interpret because Christa does not specify the objects of the activity (recall that we remarked upon Christa’s use of generic terms before). One of the boy’s activities that remains opaque from a narrative perspective is his looking into his boots to see whether the frog might have hid in them. After recounting the boy’s waking up and subsequent surprise about the frog’s escape, Christa produces the sequences in (291). Notice that we can only infer from her recount that the boy first takes up the container the frog used to be in and looks into it, because the locus of this first container coincides with the locus of the container the frog escaped from. However, for the two other containers associated with loci at the bottom slightly to the right we cannot establish their kind, because Christa does not specify them any further. Only the audience acquainted with the frog story might conclude that it is the boy’s boots what he is looking into.
Reference forms and functions. As we can glean from Table 3.41, the overall frequency of subject drop in Christa’s file 1 narrative is relatively high (82.1). Indeed,
the proportion of subject NPs (14.3%) is among the lowest measured in this corpus (in fact, a lower percentage [8.2%] was only obtained for Muhammed’s file 3).
At closer inspection, the analysis reveals that Christa uses full NPs to introduce the story characters, but does not always make use of full NPs when it comes to the reintroduction of a character as a protagonist. Note that NPs occur in reintroduction contexts with a frequency of 18.2% out of the total percentage of 19.6 of reference forms serving this function (cf. Table 3.41). The relatively high proportion of subject drop in such reintroduction sequences (63.6) contrasts with the percentages obtained for subject drop in more advanced narratives, in which signers use subject NPs to avoid referential ambiguity when they reintroduce a character (in particular, when it is not the one chosen as the thematic subject), contributing this way to the overall coherence of the story. By contrast, the proportion of subject drop in those narrative passages of Christa’s file 1 that recount series of events involving the same character is well in line with the target requirements, on the one hand, and the proportions observed in the narratives of the other participants in this study, on the other hand. We can also see in Table
3.41 that the relative frequency of determiners amounts to 3.6% in this narrative. Recall, in addition, Christa’s use of pronouns associated with a locus corresponding with the location of the book to refer to the boy.
Expression of spatial relations. Christa’s file 1 narrative includes information on spatial relations. As we can glean from the overview provided in Table
3.42 background information expressed via the h2-classifier is introduced previously through a lexical antecedent. In (292), for example, we learn that the boy believes the frog might be in the forest and decides to go there. Notice that in the two-handed construction the determiner detloc_in indicates the location the boy is thinking of, that is, inside the forest. The non-dominant hand, in turn, is used to produce an h2-classifier that backgrounds the information about the location specified previously. In the subsequent sequence recounting the boy’s decision to go there the verb go is modulated so as to agree with the locus for the forest established via detloc. Further, we can see that more specific information of the ground is provided in the context of a repetition via a locative complement preceding the complex classifier construction in (293b) (the h2-classifier in (293a) indicates only that the frog climbs out of some generic location). However, the forms used often have a generic meaning because Christa does not use (more specific) conventional signs to refer to ground objects. This is the case of the description of the scene involving the beehive (see example (290)) (recall also that the log behind which the boy finds the frog family was not specified as such but referred to as a surface the boy leans against in (285)).
Table 3.41: Reference forms and functions in Christa’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-11.
Figure 3.11: Proportion of reference forms and functions in Christa’s file 1.
Table 3.42: Expression of figure-ground relations in Christa’ file 1.