Linguistics in Amsterdam 5-1 (January 2012)Vadim Kimmelman: Word order in Russian Sign Language
4 Word order in RSL

To refer to this article use this url:

4.4 Doubling

In this section, doubling of the verb (or the nominal predicate) is discussed. As I have mentioned in section 3.4, I decided to consider sequences containing two occurrences of one verb to be a single clause, if these occurrences are only separated by the arguments or adjunct of this verb, and if the occurrences are either identical or different only in morphological or non-manual marking. That is, if between the two occurrences of a verb referring to one situation another verb appears, I did not analyze this sequence as one clause containing doubling, but as three separate clauses. In making this decision, I do not deny that the mechanisms governing doubling in discourse are principally different from the mechanisms governing doubling in syntax (in clauses), but this research was only focused on the syntax of RSL.[18]

Doubling was analyzed only on the basis of the corpus data because prosody was an important parameter. In particular, I was interested in whether the occurrences of the doubled element would be separated by a prosodic boundary and whether the placement of this boundary can be used to determine what was the base position of the doubled element.

Before discussing doubling of verbal predicates, I will briefly mention doubling of nominal predicates. The corpus contained two clauses where the nominal predicate was doubled. In both cases, the occurrences of the predicate were identical. In the first case the clause constituted one EDU (42), while in the second case there was a prosodic boundary between the occurrences of the predicate (43)[19].


Verbal predicates are repeated in 21 clauses in the corpus. In 14 cases the occurrences of the verb are identical, so they can be classified as verbal echoes (44).


In the other 7 cases the occurrences were different, and what is important, the second occurrence was always more marked (which is in line with the findings of Fischer & Janis (1990) for ASL). In two clauses the second occurrence was inflected for aspect: once progressive aspect (45), and once distributive aspect (46)[20].


In two cases the second occurrence of the verb was marked with a meaningful (emotional) non-manual expression (47); see Figure 4 for illustration of the two occurrence of the verb look.


Figure 4: The difference in the non-manual expression between the first and the second occurrences of the verb look

In three cases the occurrences of the classifier construction which was doubled (X3-30, X2-30, Z3-32) were different in the shape of the movement in that the second occurrence contained a more iconic, detailed movement (48).


In one of the clauses with doubling, the occurrences of the verb were adjacent (G2-16). In 16 cases the object was placed between the occurrences (the VOV sequence; see e.g. (46) and (47)), and in 4 cases an adverb (the VAdvV sequence; e.g. (44)).

If we look at the prosody of the clauses with doubling, we can see that the picture is quite diverse. Consider Table 15 showing the prosodic patterns of the cases in which the object or the adverb intervened between the occurrences of the verb:

Table 15: Prosody in clauses with doubling







V Adv V


V/ O/ V


V Adv/ V




V/ Adv V










In most cases both occurrences of the verb and the object constituted separate EDUs. V/OV and VO/V boundary placement were less common, while the situation with all elements included in one prosodic unit was even less common. When the adverb was placed between the occurrences of the verb, there was usually a prosodic boundary in the clause, too.

To sum up, there are three observations that can be made concerning doubling of the predicates. Firstly, doubling of predicates is a fairly common clause-level phenomenon in our corpus (it appears in 21 out of 773 clauses), and in most cases the occurrences of the predicate are identical. Secondly, when one of the occurrences of the predicate is marked (manually or non-manually), it is always the second one. Thirdly, in most cases the clause with doubling constitutes more than one EDU and the placement of the prosodic boundaries in the clause seems arbitrary. The last two observations will turn out to be relevant for the discussion of the basic word order in the next section.