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The Grammaticization of Topics in American Sign Language

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The topic construction of American Sign Language (ASL), within a topic-comment discourse structure framework, is explained as having emerged from gestural, communicative roots. In modern ASL, the prototypical topic construction is understood to grammatically mark pragmatic information that is accessible to both the signer and the addressee. But the construction is shown to have grammaticized further, with grammatical meaning having to do with text organization and with no reference to pragmatic, extra-linguistic information. The topic, however, is not seen as grammaticizing into a subject. Rather, the grammaticized topic remains prominent in ASL, with its own distinct set of resulting functions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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