Chapter in:Grammatical and Sociolinguistic Aspects of Ethiopian Languages
Edited by Derib Ado, Almaz Wasse Gelagay and Janne Bondi Johannessen †
[IMPACT: Studies in Language, Culture and Society 48] 2021
► pp. 389–412
Polysemy of Ethiopian sign language
The purpose of this study was to examine cases of polysemous signs in Ethiopian Sign Language (hereafter ethsl). There are various processes of forming polysemy in sign language. To carry out this study, data was collected from users of sign language in Addis Ababa and Hossana by means of direct elicitation, video recording and analysis of ethsl dictionaries. The data showed some cases of polysemy through meaning extension as well as other occurrences of polysemy. A qualitative descriptive method was used to describe the polysemous signs in ethsl. The article describes different cases of initiating semantic extension processes, such as action vs. result of activity, noun vs. verb, systematic meaning relations, such as animal vs. meat, and generality. Also borrowings from oral language and other sign languages are found. One aim of this study is to contribute new knowledge about how polysemous signs in ethsl are extended/derived, as well as accounts for the process of meaning extension. This study will be useful for lexicographers of sign language dictionaries, as well as for second-language learners of sign language.
Keywords: lexical semantics, polysemy, polysemous signs
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