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Written German competence at the onset of the study

Word order. In Hamida’s file 1, main clauses adhere to the SVX pattern (cf. (586)) with a few exceptions, such as (587), a sequence in which non-subject V2 appears in a quotation environment.

Word order and language contact. Constructions with a sentence final placement of the finite main verb (example (588)) represent an exception. However, at closer inspection, the sequence in (588) represents a remarkable candidate for borrowing from DGS: notice that elements are arranged following the figure- ground principle as it is characteristic of that language. In addition, the use of

da (‘there’) to express the location of the referent is reminiscent of the use of the existential determiner also glossed as DA in DGS. Recall that we already remarked upon this phenomenon in the narratives of Muhammed.

Example (589), in turn, shows that structural gaps concerning complex clauses do not prevent Hamida from expressing complex causal relations to describe the events of the picture story: although the example consists of a combination of verbless sequences, including a “weil+X” pattern, the meaning of the sequence is clear. Other verbless clauses at the time (the rate of verb drop in main clauses is of 18.5%) typically involve predicative constructions or expressions for which the target lexical means are not fully available. Example (590) involves the expression Angst (‘fright’) which would require the use of the haben (‘to have’) in target German to express the meaning of ‘being frightened’. It must be noted that verb drop in constructions with the expression Angst represents another recurrent phenomenon observed in written productions of DGS-German bilingual deaf children. We will come to this phenomenon in more detail in the discussion section 4.11.

Verb inflection. Turning to verb inflection the analysis of the data reveals that the overall frequency of target-like verb inflection in Hamida’s file 1 narrative amounts to 48% of all verb forms produced. Example (587) above illustrates the production of target-like finite verb forms, such as sagt (‘says’). Yet Hamida also produces target-deviant non-finite forms in contexts where a finite form would be required, this is the case in example (591a), which involves the phrasal verb aus- steigen (‘get out’). Another type of error concerns the choice of a verb ending that does not agree with the subject argument; this type of error occurs not only with main verbs but also with the suppletive forms of the copula verb sein (‘to be’). Indeed, this is the case in example (591b) where Hamida erroneously produces the 3rd person plural form sind (‘are’) instead of the 3rd person singular form ist (‘is’) to express the frog’s leaving. The use of this form in other contexts, at times in combination with main verb infinitives as in example (592) suggests that this expletive form is used as a default form at the time.

390 - Bilingual deaf learners’ written German profiles

Worthy of mention is also Hamida’s use of the first person plural pronoun wir (‘we’) already in this first narrative of our corpus. However, this pronoun is erroneously used to refer 3rd person plural referents (in the case of (593) and (594) to refer to the two story characters). Because this type of error was also observed in the productions of other participants (for example, by Maria in file 1), we may assumme it is initially used by some learners as a pronoun to refer to plural referents, lacking the feature specification for number (1st vs. 3rd).

Summarising, Hamida’s written productions at the onset of the study do not provide unambiguous evidence of the availability of an expanded structure. Her learner grammar at the time is best described as a VP grammar.

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