Spatial Agreement Verbs

If the ISL is a representative example of the evolution of condensation in sign language, the languages of these two modalities show a very different development trajectory. In spoken languages, many markers of the grammar and clitization of free pronouns can be traced (or at least have been argued as being in development) (cf. z.B. Givón, 1971, 1976; van Gelderen, 2011). In the ISL, the source of the correspondence morpheme is the shape of the transfers and the reanalysis of their breakpoints as a morpheme. These different origins may explain some of the typological differences between languages in both modalities. Both systems also share certain properties, as shown by LM&M. For example, they both concede null arguments and interact with word order. What can explain the similarities between two systems that have such different development trajectories? I propose a functional explanation: formal similarities are marked by similarities in function. Both of these systems serve to track reference, and they do so by encoding pronominal characteristics on verb forms. These systems could therefore be considered convergent structures in the development of the language. In biology, convergent structures are structures that perform the same or a similar function by a similar mechanism, but have developed separately, sometimes by different pathways. For example, the wings of insects and birds, whales and fish fins.

Some of the formal similarities of these organs are due to the similar function for which they developed. Our ability to observe the diachronic evolution of ISL overrealization increases the possibility of postulating convergent structures in language development. In this response, the signer places the CHILD sign in a place right in front of it, as if the child were the recipient. Then she directs the verb THROW to the point in the space where she located the child. This verbal form is very similar to the unthinformed forms described above. There are, however, two main differences. First, the signatory explicitly locates the argument (CHILD) in front of it; Second, the verb is signed as if it were directed towards the child. Such a form then shows the buds of the sign language tuning system, namely directionality: a verb is directed to a place in the space associated with an argument of the verb. In other words, the end point of the sign is reanalyzed as a morpheme, thus encoding a feature of the verb argument. But the verb is always articulated on the Z axis (the address sign). Four signatories in the group used this form in 50 (66%) of their responses.

In the study of American Sign Language, the notions of “spatial convergence”, “signatory perspective” and “principle of reality” are much balanced. These three closely related terms all simply refer to the signing and demonstration of places and other physical objects as they are in real life. In other words, if you describe in ASL where the bathroom is, you need to indicate the direction in which the bathroom is actually located, not in the opposite direction. This is generally what is meant by the principle of reality. You use what is called the “signature room” or the area in front of your body, where signs are signed, to show as clearly as possible where the objects are in relation to each other, so that the recipient can find their way from your visual description. Instant, that is, in which direction you look, and head tilt are used in addition to showing to describe directions….