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Constructed Action, the Clause and the Nature of Syntax in Finnish Sign Language

Tommi Jantunen
  • Sign Language Center, Department of Language and Communication Studies, P.O. Box 35 (F), FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland
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Published Online: 2017-03-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0004


This paper investigates the interplay of constructed action and the clause in Finnish Sign Language (FinSL). Constructed action is a form of gestural enactment in which the signers use their hands, face and other parts of the body to represent the actions, thoughts or feelings of someone they are referring to in the discourse. With the help of frequencies calculated from corpus data, this article shows firstly that when FinSL signers are narrating a story, there are differences in how they use constructed action. Then the paper argues that there are differences also in the prototypical structure, linkage type and non-manual activity of clauses, depending on the presence or non-presence of constructed action. Finally, taking the view that gesturality is an integral part of language, the paper discusses the nature of syntax in sign languages and proposes a conceptualization in which syntax is seen as a set of norms distributed on a continuum between a categorial-conventional end and a gradient-unconventional end.

Keywords: constructed action; gesturality; clause; syntax; Finnish Sign Language


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About the article

Received: 2016-11-17

Accepted: 2017-02-22

Published Online: 2017-03-25

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 65–85, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0004.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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