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American Sign Language: "pronoun copy"
(The repetition of a pronoun at the end of a sentence."
A student asks:
Dr. Bill I was wondering if you could explain the use of pronouns twice. I have yet to run into this at my college level classes, currently in ASL 4. It has never been mentioned before.
I am curious as to the reason the pronoun gets mentioned twice if the subject has be established at the beginning of the sentence. Is it used only to add emphasis or is it important for some other reason?
Dr. Bill Replies:
It may help to think of some pronoun usage as a combination of a facial expression and the pointing index finger. For example:
The "are", "do", and "did" concepts above are expressed not as separate signs but rather are expressed via your face (with raised eyebrows and sometimes an accompanying slight forward tilt of head) while pointing at the person.
Thus a sentence such as, "Do you like ice-cream?" -- (sometimes) ends up being signed as, "YOU LIKE ICE-CREAM do-YOU?"
The first "YOU" functions as a simple pronoun, the second YOU however is done with raised eyebrows, held a little longer, and functions not as a pronoun but instead it functions as an auxiliary verb.
Another thing to consider is that English speakers often seem to drop certain verbs in high-context situations.
Imagine two people who have met at a dance (or wherever) and decide they like each other. One of them might say to the other:
Really though what is happening here is the speaker is combining the tone of his/her voice with the word YOU to create the auxiliary verb "are."
So, to review:
1. We tend to use "pronoun copy" not for emphasis but rather to function as an auxiliary verb (such as "do" or "are").
2. The inconsistency in the use (or lack of use) of the second pronoun in real life (or in various curricula) may seem inconsistent and confusing to second language learners but it will help to remember that your own native language tends to "use certain words sometimes" and "drop those same words" other times -- depending on how much context there is in the situation and how you are modulating your voice.
A student asks:
Oh OK! So in the example sentence is the second YOU used in addition with the facial expressions like the word used for the yes/no question. Similar to how "WH-questions" place the "WH" word at the end? Also is the second YOU necessary or would raised eyebrows suffice? And last question...is the use of a second YOU only for questions or is it ever used in a statement?
Dr. Bill replies:
The second "YOU is sometimes dropped and replaced by "context" + "facial-expression." The higher the context, the less need for words or signs.
2. The rightward movement of the auxiliary "do-YOU" is indeed similar in nature to the rightward movement of "WH-questions." This is likely due in both cases to the awkwardness of trying to hold your eyebrows up or down throughout the duration of long sentences. It is easier to just raise or lower the eyebrows for a bit at the end of a sentence.
3. The "second you" shows up in statements as well.
For example, "You are going!" - can be expressed as YOU GO (nod)-YOU! Again, we see that the second YOU is not actually functioning as a pronoun but instead as the auxiliary verb "are" For example, the "nod" ends up meaning "are" as in: "YOU GO YOU-(are)!"
Also see: Pronoun Placement
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