Size and shape specifiers in Russian Sign Language: a morphological analysis
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
Completed under a Cotutelle arrangement between the University of Melbourne and University of Birmingham
© 2020 Maria Kyuseva
This dissertation presents an in-depth analysis of size and shape specifiers in Russian Sign Language (RSL). Size and shape specifiers, or SASSes, are signs widely used in sign languages of the world to describe visual characteristics of objects. Highly iconic, they have been noted to possess a range of peculiar features, such as combining categorical and gradual properties, composing the meaning of the whole out of the meanings of parts, and denoting different characteristics of the object simultaneously (location, orientation, length, width, overall shape, and some others). Despite their extensive use, SASSes received surprisingly little attention in the literature. This dissertation fills this gap in the existing body of knowledge by conducting a thorough analysis of SASSes in RSL. It (1) defines the properties of SASSes that set them aside as a separate group of signs; (2) determines the status of SASSes in the sign language lexicon; (3) compares the way SASSes describe objects with the way(s) spoken languages do. The method of the study entails collecting a corpus of video-recordings with semi-spontaneous signing, which is followed by a detailed phonetic transcription of SASSes occurring in the corpus (overall, 625 tokens) in ELAN. A subsequent feature by feature analysis of structural elements in these signs (namely, handshape, place of articulation, movement, and mouth actions), allows us to establish SASSes as a distinct group with its unique set of properties. This is pioneering research that sets the grounds for the future typological analysis of these signs cross different sign languages.
KeywordsRussian Sign Language; sign language morphology; sign language lexicon; size and shape specifiers; cross-modal typology; corpus study
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