The Special Nature of Verbs in Sign Languages
An RRG Account of Irish Sign Language Verbs
Keywords:Irish Sign Language Verbs, Role and Reference Grammar, Generative Lexicon Theory, Articulatory Structure Level, Event Visibility Hypothesis
This paper is concerned with the special nature of Sign Language verbs, in particular to this research, Irish Sign Language (ISL) verbs. We use Role and Reference Grammar (RRG) (Van Valin 2005) to provide a definition of the structure of lexical entries that are sufficiently rich and universal in nature to represent ISL verbs. This work is part of research work in the development of a linguistically motivated computational framework for ISL. We use RRG (Van Valin and LaPolla 1997) as the theoretical framework of this study. RRG takes language to be a system of communicative social action, and accordingly, analysing the communicative functions of grammatical structures plays a vital role in grammatical description and theory from this perspective (Van Valin 2005). Using RRG provides significant theoretical and technical challenges within both RRG and software.
We provide an account of the morphological and grammatical information that can be found within ISL verbs. We use the Signs of Ireland corpus (SOI) to access the relevant linguistic data pertinent to ISL (Leeson et al, 2006). Further to this we use ELAN software as an application tool, which allows us to view the corpus and collate relevant linguistic phenomena pertinent to ISL. We utilise the Event Visibility Hypothesis (EVH) (Wilbur 2008) in the development of our proposed lexicon architecture. We refer to Articulatory Structure Level (Murtagh 2018) in the development of a linguistically motivated computational definition of lexicon entries that are sufficiently robust in nature to represent ISL verbs within the RRG lexicon. We utilise this new level of lexical representation (Pustejovsky 1995), which describes the essential (computational) phonological parameters of an object as defined by the lexical item to cater specifically for the computational linguistic phenomena consistent with signed languages, in particular to this research ISL, enabling us to provide an adequate account of ISL verbs within the RRG lexicon.
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