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Linguistics

An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker


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Volume 53, Issue 2

Issues

Mutual intelligibility among the sign languages of Belgium and the Netherlands

Anna Sáfár
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  • Centre for Language Studies, Department of Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, Postbus 9103, NL-6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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/ Laurence Meurant
  • FRS-FNRS and University of Namur, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, LSFB-Lab, rue de Bruxelles 61, B-5000 Namur, Belgium
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/ Thierry Haesenne / Ellen Nauta
  • Centre for Language Studies, Department of Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, Postbus 9103, NL-6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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/ Danny De Weerdt / Ellen Ormel
  • Centre for Language Studies, Department of Linguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, Postbus 9103, NL-6500 HD Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Published Online: 2015-02-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2015-0004

Abstract

In an exploratory study of mutual intelligibility between the sign languages of the northern part of Belgium (Flemish Sign Language, VGT), the southern part of Belgium (French Belgian Sign Language, LSFB), and the Netherlands (Sign Language of the Netherlands, NGT), we tested the comprehension of VGT by signers of LSFB and NGT. In order to measure the influence of iconic structures (classifier constructions and constructed action) that linguistic analyses have shown to be similar across different sign languages, two genres were compared: narrative and informative signing. To investigate the effect of the overlap between the spoken languages surrounding the Dutch and Flemish Deaf communities, videos were presented in two conditions: first without and subsequently with mouthings. As we hypothesized, both LSFB and NGT signers understood narratives better than informative signing, showing for the first time that iconic structures facilitate comprehension of foreign signing. Furthermore, the results at least partially confirm our hypothesis that NGT signers benefit more from mouthings than LSFB signers, uncovering a source of intelligibility that is unique to sign languages.

Keywords: mutual intelligibility; sign language; narrative; mouthing; iconicity

About the article

Published Online: 2015-02-28

Published in Print: 2015-03-01


Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 53, Issue 2, Pages 353–374, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2015-0004.

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[1]
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