A new classifier-based plural morpheme in German Sign Language (DGS)
German Sign Language (DGS) displays variation in the simple plural, the form of which is conditioned by classes of phonological features within the lexicon. As a consequence, the overt realization of the plural marker is restricted to a small set of nouns specified for the appropriate phonological features, while the rest are left bare (Pfau & Steinbach 2005, 2006; Steinbach 2012). Pfau & Steinbach (2005) report a number of ‘alternative pluralization strategies’ available as repairs for this underspecification, including classifier constructions, spatial localization, and number and quantifier phrases. I propose a previously undescribed mechanism for plural marking, the ‘classifier-based plural morpheme’ (CLP), grammaticalized from the classifier system into a morpheme in the grammars of individual DGS signers. Elicitation data show that this morpheme attaches only to nouns which are specified for phonological features that restrict the realization of the canonical plural marker, adding a new option to the range of pluralization strategies available.
Keywords: German Sign Language, grammaticalization, reduplication, plural marking, classifier predicates
Published online: 19 October 2018
Aronoff, Mark, Irit Meir & Wendy Sandler
Hopper, Paul & Elizabeth Closs Traugott
Pfau, Roland & Markus Steinbach