Morphology below the level of the sign - frozen forms and classifier predicates
Morphology below the level of the sign - frozen forms and classifier predicates. In J. Quer (Ed.
), Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR)
(pp. 251-272). Hamburg: Signum Verlag.
The lexicons of many sign languages hold large proportions of “frozen” forms, viz. signs that are
generally considered to have been formed productively (as classifier predicates), but that have
diachronically undergone processes of lexicalisation. Nederlandse Gebarentaal (Sign Language of
the Netherlands; henceforth: NGT) also has many of these signs (Van der Kooij 2002, Zwitserlood
2003). In contrast to the general view on “frozen” forms, a few researchers claim that these signs
may be formed according to productive sign formation rules, notably Brennan (1990) for BSL, and
Meir (2001, 2002) for ISL. Following these claims, I suggest an analysis of “frozen” NGT signs as
morphologically complex, using the framework of Distributed Morphology. The signs in question
are derived in a similar way as classifier predicates; hence their similar form (but diverging characteristics).
I will indicate how and why the structure and use of classifier predicates and “frozen”
forms differ. Although my analysis focuses on NGT, it may also be applicable to other sign languages.