The main aim of the project entitled Iconicity in the grammar and lexicon of Polish Sign Language (PJM) was to conduct an extensive corpus-based investigation into the grammar and lexicon of Polish Sign Language (polski język migowy, PJM). Until recently, PJM was a highly understudied language from the linguistic perspective. Most of existing analyses were based on the intuitions of individual native signers rather than on representative samples of real language usage. This is understandable, of course, considering that PJM has no written form and, until recent developments in video technology, could not be recorded in a convenient way.
However, the project Iconicity in the grammar and lexicon of Polish Sign Language (PJM) provided a unique opportunity to analyze PJM grammar and lexicon on the basis of solid empirical data. As part of this research endeavor, the Section for Sign Linguistics (SSL) of the University of Warsaw (www.plm.uw.edu.pl) was compiling the first-ever large-scale corpus of PJM. The underlying idea was to gather a collection of video data consisting of elicited and spontaneous sign language utterances, produced by signers who either have deaf parents or have used PJM since early school age. In four years of work on this project, the SSL research team managed to collect more than 400 hours of video. Nearly 100 deaf signers from all over Poland were recorded. The raw video material was then annotated with the use of special software.
This extensive set of data was then used as the basis of a detailed investigation into the grammar and lexicon of PJM. Various aspects of the linguistic system of the language were analyzed, especially those that are clearly different from the grammar of spoken Polish (such as three-dimensionality of the signing space, lack of fusional inflection, and non-linearity of syntax). The project was also focused on the much-debated issue of sign-language iconicity, i.e. the mimetic relation between the linguistic form and its denotation. One of the project team’s goals was to explore to what extent iconicity could be viewed as the cognitive driving force of various grammatical and lexical phenomena found in PJM. The results of these analyses were further used as the empirical basis for the Corpus-based Dictionary of Polish Sign Language.
Iconicity in the grammar and lexicon of Polish Sign Language (PJM) was a research project financed by Poland’s National Science Centre within the HARMONIA program (grant number: 2011/01/M/HS2/03661).