15 August: Molly Flaherty

Multi-verb descriptions to describe single events

Molly Flaherty (University of Edinburgh)

Tuesday 15 August 2017, 11:00–12:30
1.17 Dugald Stewart Building

Though communication in the manual modality allows for iconically motivated descriptions of physical events, sign languages, like spoken languages, employ conventionalized units and conventions for their combination to relate events in the world. In my previous work on Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL), I observed a verb construction that breaks an event into two components: a primary verb depicting the action from the agent’s perspective (i.e. TICKLE), paired with a secondary verb from the patient’s perspective (i.e. GET-TICKLED). These constructions were found in signers of a variety of ages, each exposed to Nicaraguan Sign Language at a different point in its development since its first emergence 30 years ago. Further, these constructions appeared more often in events with animate patients than in events with inanimate patients. Deaf Nicaraguans not exposed to NSL, homesigners, also evidenced this construction to a lesser degree.

In my current work with Simon we are exploring the learning and use of these constructions among hearing gesturers in the lab. In our study, we will expose participants to silent gesture languages containing these constructions in different proportions (i.e. 2/3 multi-verb descriptions to describe animate patient events vs. 1/3 multi-verb descriptions for animate patient events) to see if patient animacy affects the ease of learning of multi-single verb constructions. I’d love input on study design from the group.