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Journal Articles Natural Language and Linguistic Theory Year : 2023

On the nature of role shift


Attitude role shift is a sign language strategy to report someone else’s utterance or thought. It has been analyzed either as a kind of demonstration or, alternatively, as a complex construction involving subordination plus a context-shifting operator. The present work reports the results of a sentence-to-picture matching task developed in three different sign languages (Italian Sign Language, French Sign Language and Catalan Sign Language) with the aim of providing experimental evidence about the nature of role shift. The task assessed the comprehension of indexical first-person pronouns in various syntactic contexts with and without role shift. We showed that constructions with role shift, which require context-shifting for the first-person pronoun, are never easier to comprehend than constructions without role shift that do not require context-shifting. In some cases, they are even more difficult. Additionally, we show that, in Italian Sign Language only, sentences in which the role shifted first-person pronoun is in object position are more difficult than sentences in which it is in subject position. We argue that this can be interpreted as an intervention effect and that this is an argument in favor of positing a context-shifting operator in the periphery of the role shift clause. Considering that the population of adult Deaf signers includes, besides native signers, a majority of individuals with a more or less severe delayed first language exposure, the second goal of this paper is to study the effects of age of exposure on comprehension of sentences with role shift. In the three languages under investigation, we found that native signers generally outperformed non-native signers in sentences with role shift and in subordinate clauses without role shift. This confirms that delayed language exposure has a lasting impact on adults’ comprehension of subordinate clauses of various degrees of complexity.
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Dates and versions

hal-03907593 , version 1 (20-12-2022)





Valentina Aristodemo, Beatrice Giustolisi, Giorgia Zorzi, Doriane Gras, Charlotte Hauser, et al.. On the nature of role shift: Insights from a comprehension study in different populations of LIS, LSC and LSF signers. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 2023, 71, pp.459-500. ⟨10.1007/s11049-022-09539-0⟩. ⟨hal-03907593⟩
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