Polish Sign Language/Overview

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Polish Sign Language has its own grammar different from the Polish language. Unlike spoken Polish language which belongs to the slavic familty PJM is part of the German Sign Language family. However, Polish language is still widely used by the Deaf in written communication and for spelling proper names and unknown words.

Syntax[edit | edit source]

Word order[edit | edit source]

Both SOV and SVO word orders are possible, eg:



Objects are followed by possessive adjectives (your, my, her, his), eg:



Omission of verbs[edit | edit source]

Omission of verbs in sentences is quite common, eg:



Omission of prepositions[edit | edit source]

Prepositions are not as frequent in PJM as in the English or Polish language, eg:


Signs[edit | edit source]

PJM just like other sign languages is marked by the higher iconicity of the signs used compared to the spoken languages. Most signs are still arbitrary and do not resemble the things they describe. Many iconic signs like the sign for home/house are based on a prototypical depiction. Signs do not undergo inflection. Signs have their etymology, certain signs may become obsolescent and eventually replaced by new forms.

Polysemy[edit | edit source]

The majority of signs can function as different parts of speech. For example good can function as an adjective, adverb and a noun. The sign help can function as a noun, verb, adjective and an adverb; it can be translated into help, helps, helping and helpful.

Negations[edit | edit source]

For basic signs expressing actions like know there is a negative equivalent - not know. These signs are often analogical and are produced using a similar hand gesture

Plural number[edit | edit source]

Most of the signs do not have plural forms.

There are exceptions, like: child children

Direction[edit | edit source]

Signs can change their meaning simply by directing them at certain persons. For example the sign together can be directed at the speaker and one other person or a whole group of people. Realization of this sign is totally different in both cases, but it is still just one sign.

The sign help can be directed at the speaker which changes its meaning to help me.

Dialects[edit | edit source]

There are different dialects of PJM mostly concentrated around schools for the Deaf. Native speakers of PJM are aware of differences and there are some attempts at creating lists of regionalisms. The existence of many different dialects makes it really difficult to create one comprehensive dictionary of the Polish Sign Language

Polish Sign Language vs system of signs[edit | edit source]

It is important to mention the system of signs (pol. system językowo-migowy, SJM) which is used by many translators. It is a combination of Polish grammar and signs that either come from the Polish Sign Language or were created for the system to make word by word translation possible. SJM usually requires more signs in order to convey the same meaning as one sign of PJM can stand for several words.

I 20 age I have twenty years
what-is-this (one sign) what is this?