Word order and informative functions (topic and focus) in declarative utterances of Spanish Sign Language

Año: 2011
Editorial: Journal of Pragmatics. Nº 44 (2011) p. 474-489
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital



The aim of this paper is two-fold: firstly, to address the issue of word order in declarative utterances in LSE (Spanish Signed Language), and secondly, to analyse the function of the informative component (topic and focus) at utterance and discursive level in this language (given that research carried out to date in certain sign languages has revealed that this component plays a key function in utterance organisation). The conclusions of our study indicate that the following three word order options are possible: SOV, SVO and topicalisation of object and space-setting (at the start of the utterance). These orders may also vary at discourse level if the signer adopts a spatial organisation of events. As for the other item of the informative element, the focus, it has an emphatic value (information and contrastive focus) and is expressed by means of two types of binary structures: (a) a divided question-answer structure, and (b) a structure whose initial element expresses surprise, followed by the focalised element. From a discursive perspective, both topic and focus have several functions: the topic establishes the discursive theme, has an anaphoric function, and provides cohesion in the listing of elements; the focus structure is used with the function of conjunction (in particular, to introduce purpose, causal, and result clauses).