A1 Journal article (refereed)
Figure–Ground Spatial Relationships in Finnish Sign Language Discourse (2020)

De Weerdt, D. (2020). Figure–Ground Spatial Relationships in Finnish Sign Language Discourse. Open Linguistics, 6(1), 723-746. https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2020-0041

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: De Weerdt, Danny

Journal or series: Open Linguistics

eISSN: 2300-9969

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 6

Issue number: 1

Pages range: 723-746

Publisher: De Gruyter

Publication country: Germany

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2020-0041

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/74228


This study is about expressing spatial relationships between Figure and Ground in Finnish Sign Language discourse and shows that the variation in this expression is primarily discourse dependent. The main findings are, first, that Ground mainly precedes Figure whether the Figure is new or a known referent within the discourse; the reverse order is possible only when the Figure is known. Second, the lexical sign olla (‘have’) appears more frequently in expressing spatial relationships with a new Figure and less frequently with a known Figure but never in a construction with Figure preceding Ground; the form oli (‘had’), referring to the past, appears only in Figure preceding Ground constructions when Figure is known. Finally, the main way to express the spatial relationship between Ground and Figure is either the simultaneous production of the units, or Ground and an adposition sign. A sequential strategy is another way of expressing spatial relationships but this can be used only when the Figure is new within the discourse. The choice of strategy can be attributed to the emphasis put on the Figure’s presence when it is new while with a known Figure, the emphasis is on the location of that Figure.

Keywords: sign language; Finnish Sign Language; syntax; conversation analysis

Free keywords: spatial relationships; figure; ground; discourse; Finnish sign language; simultaneity; sequentiality

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 14:50