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    Fenlon, Jordan Schembri, Adam Johnston, Trevor and Cormier, Kearsy 2015. Research Methods in Sign Language Studies.

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    Ferrara, Lindsay and Johnston, Trevor 2014. Elaborating Who's What: A Study of Constructed Action and Clause Structure in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). Australian Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 34, Issue. 2, p. 193.

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Variable “subject” presence in Australian Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language

  • Rachel McKee (a1), Adam Schembri (a2), David McKee (a1) and Trevor Johnston (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 21 December 2011

This article reports the findings of parallel studies of variable subject presence in two closely related sign language varieties, Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). The studies expand upon research in American Sign Language (ASL) (Wulf, Dudis, Bayley, & Lucas, 2002) that found subject pronouns with noninflecting verbs to be more frequently unexpressed than expressed. The ASL study reported that null subject use correlates with both social and linguistic factors, the strongest of which is referential congruence with an antecedent in a preceding clause. Findings from the Auslan and NZSL studies also indicated that chains of reference play a stronger role in subject presence than either morphological factors (e.g., verb type), or social factors of age, gender, ethnicity, and language background. Overall results are consistent with the view that this feature of syntactic variation may be better accounted for in terms of information structure than sociolinguistic effects.

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Holly Branigan . (2007). Syntactic priming. Language and Linguistics Compass 1(1–2):116.

Louise de Beuzeville , Trevor Johnston & Adam Schembri . (2009). The use of space with indicating verbs in Auslan: A corpus based investigation. Sign Language & Linguistics 12(1):5382.

Nydia Flores-Ferrán . (2007). A bend in the road: Subject personal pronoun expression in Spanish after 30 years of sociolinguistic research. Language and Linguistics Compass 1(6):624652.

Martin Haspelmath . (2007). Pre-established categories don't exist—Consequences for language description and typology. Linguistic Typology 11(1):119132.

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Diane Lillo-Martin . (1986). Two kinds of null arguments in American Sign Language. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 4:1544.

Adam Schembri , & Trevor Johnston . (2007). Sociolinguistic variation in the use of fingerspelling in Australian Sign Language (Auslan): A pilot study. Sign Language Studies 7(3):319347.

Antonella Sorace , L Serratrice ., Francesca Filiaci , & Michela Baldo . (2009). Discourse conditions on subject pronoun realization: Testing the linguistic intuitions of older bilingual children. Lingua 119:460477.

Alyssa Wulf , Paul Dudis , Robert Bayley , & Ceil Lucas . (2002). Variable subject presence in ASL narratives. Sign Language Studies 3(1):5476.

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Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
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