CfP: Lidil – Special issue – Sign language and discourse genres

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Lidil invites contributions to a special issue dedicated to sign language and discourse genres.
Important dates
Deadline for the submission of article proposals: 15 December 2017
Acceptance notification: 15 February 2018
Deadline for the submission of articles: 15 June 2018
Return of scientific committee reviews: 15 December 2018
Deadline for the submission of revised texts: 1st February 2019
Publication: June 2019

Proposals should be sent to &

This issue of Lidil aims to assemble contributions that would shed a light on the distinctive features characterising discourse genres in sign languages, from a pragmatic, prosodic, lexical or morphosyntactic perspective, and consider the ways in which genre studies could promote our analysis and understanding of phenomena unique to these gestural languages.
An extensive tradition of genre studies exists for spoken languages, addressing both written and oral genres. In contrast, sign languages genre is rarely addressed in research, despite the recent development of multiple SL corpora, in France and all over the world. Yet, the consideration of genre anchoring could clarify linguistic and textual mechanism unique to SLs—gestural languages without written form.
We must, undoubtedly elaborate and define the descriptive tools specific for each modality, but it is also interesting to consider the contribution of genre studies in spoken languages.

Discourse genres in spoken languages
Discourse genres and their analysis have been a hotly debated (Charaudeau, 2002; Beacco, 2004, a.o.), at times even demolished, viewed as the invention of linguists, so elusive are its boundaries (Rastier & Pincemin, 1999), just as the boundaries of language itself (Calvet, 2005). Nevertheless, this is an important issue, in particular when aiming to tease apart occurrences or patterns of discourse (Foucault, 1969) likely to engender distinct syntactic and utterance structures.
And so, we return to the question of genres, without intending to re-evoke the debates that accompanied their conceptualisation (Maingueneau, 2016, p. 53-67). We retain therefore, as a baseline, Adam’s (2011a) description of genres in prototypical terms, like “sequences” inserted into utterances and thus cannot be globally characterised, so discourse genres are incorporated into speech. These sequences stem from distinct discourse genres: descriptive, narrative, argumentative, explicative, and dialogic. These sequences have been studied in two particular cases, proposed by Benveniste (1974[1966]), namely story (histoire) and narrative (récit); in oral or written discourse, ordinary or literary writings (the latter, classified as narratives, are subsumed by Adam (2016: 101-127) under the narrative genre, which is partially appropriate, as there are narrative sequences in a given discourse (Millet, 2002). In this regard, it should be stressed that the poetic genre is a special form of literary genre, which does not necessarily match the criteria defining the narrative or the literary. The poetic genre was explored by Jakobson, and to which he dedicated his (1973) essay. Jakobson associated it with a specific function, such as the projection of the “principle of equivalence from the axis of selection to the axis of combination” (1963: 220)—which can be rephrased as “projection from the paradigmatic axis to the syntagmatic axis.” For our purposes, we consider the poetic as a genre in its own right, as analysed by Adam (2011b, p. 127-140) in terms of signifier ties, implicit and ellipsis.
Thus, we retain Adam’s major discourse genres: descriptive, narrative, argumentative, explicative, dialogic (understood here as “interactions between the participants of a specific oral communicative situation”), and add the poetic genre as a special case of its own.
These central types can, however, be combined or subdivided, depending on the type of text analysed (oral or written), as well as the story/narrative distinction. In this perspective, the notion of discourse genres is tightly linked to the medium and the tools of analysis. Thus, the political discourse, a popular topic of study in the 1970-1980 (Courtine, 1981), or the journalistic discourse (Moirand, 2007), have been studied as such, the sequences they contain associated with the five major genres.

Discourse genres and sign languages
In gestural languages, all discourse and all genres involve ‘orality’, even when video recordings enable us to pinpoint, rework and recompose them. SL-video is a stable form, that can be considered a parallel to voice recordings in spoken language, but it is not equivalent to writing.
Indeed, while lsf corpora include various types of discourse (Boutet & Blondel, 2016), the studies based on them do not address the question of genre (or only touch on it). Aside for the narrative and poetic genres, LSF discourse is usually solicited with a particular linguistic domain in mind, a specific aspect or set of aspects, but their categorisation in one discourse genre or another is not examined.
In the wider international research on sign languages, the genres of discourse are considered as such when they come from a narrative or conversational register (Winston, 1999), from an artistic register (Bauman, Nelson & Rose, 2006; Sutton-Spence & Kaneko, 2016), or when experimental conditions require uniformity of linguistic tasks (e.g., in semi-directed interviews collecting life stories or map tasks).
The data in the linguistic literature on LSF can be classified along the following (non-exclusive) lines: narrative or argumentative-explicative, elaborate or spontaneous, literary or not, interactive or monologic. Thus, tales, fables, nursery rhymes and poems are primarily analysed for their polyphonic structure (Bouvet, 1996), their semantic dynamics (Le Corre, 2007), or their poetic function (Blondel, 2000; Blondel, Miller & Parisot, 2006). Other corpora are intended for the contrastive analysis of narration and description (Cuxac et al., 2002), the elicitation of the narrative register (Niederberger, 2004; Jacob, 2007; Sallandre, Courtin, Fusellier Souza & L’Huillier, 2010; Estève, 2011), the metalinguistic register, and spontaneous interactions in a family setting (Tuller, Blondel & Niederberger, 2007; Limousin, 2011). Yet other corpora involve life stories and anecdotes (Millet & Estève, 2009; Risler, 2014), interactions in a didactic setting (Mugnier, 2006), with narrative sub-categories such as map tasks (Boutora & Braffort, 2011) or news flashes (LIMSI, Corpus of 40 flashes – 2012).
Concerning the study of LSF, analyses tend to focus primarily on the instance of discourse / instance of narrative distinction. The description of narration as an instance of narrative has let to multiple, even antagonistic, theories (Cuxac, 2000; Millet, 2002).
Within the descriptive inter-SL inventories (Brentari, 2010; Bakken Jepsen, De Clerck, Lutalo-Kiingi & McGregor, 2015), attention is given particularly to phonological, morphosyntactic and prosodic analyses, but less so to the discourse and pragmatic dimensions, and very little attention is given to a comparative study of genres and registers (Meurant & Sinte, 2016). We note particular interest in the structure of narrative, specifically in terms of referential processes and event structure (event packaging), of evaluative markers (Labov & Waletzky, 1967), and of some interactive characteristics of signers, such as turn-taking, input-output relations in acquisition, and contact forms related to multilingualism and bimodality (Lucas, 2006a; 2006b a.o.).
Sign languages and discourse genres: avenues of research
The aim of this issue is to juxtapose analyses of SL discourse genres and more specific studies on particular communicative situations, these topics addressed in separate articles or within the same study. Of particular interest to us are the linguistic elements under examination. A number of hypotheses can be proposed concerning the relations between linguistic categories and specific genres. Such observations include size and shape specifiers in the descriptive genre, the frequency of embodied proforms (Millet, 2002) role taking (Moody, 1983) or transfers (Cuxac, 2000) in narrative, contrasted spaces related to the argumentative genre, particular usage of handshapes and movements in the poetic genre.
The following guiding topics are potential avenues of research:
· Articles can examine the six genres selected: descriptive, narrative, argumentative, explicative, dialogic and poetic. Nevertheless, we encourage authors to examine genres other than the narrative, which has been relatively well-studied in LSF.
· With respect to dialogic genres—rarely studied in LSF—the use of phatic markers, the organisation of turn taking, or of thematic sequencing are potential topics of interest. Dialogic genres in neutral or specific contexts (e.g., classroom interaction), and with varied interlocutor types (deaf–deaf or deaf–hearing) can be considered
· Proposals concerned with prototypical sequences in particular discourse situations (e.g., media, art) are also of interest.
· Another interesting perspective is the examination of a formal element (e.g. the gaze, the use of space, size and shape specifiers) in specific discourse genres.
Proposals should specify the corpora used and the linguistic elements used to characterise the discourse genre examined. We welcome comparative studies across SLs or across genres.

Format of article proposals
The abstract must include
Author’s name
Author’s affiliation
5000 characters (including spaces, not including bibliography)
Format of articles
In accordance with the journal’s policy, we do not restrict the language of articles; authors are welcome to submit contributions in French, English or any other language.
The articles submitted must be 35,000–40,000 characters long (with spaces), including notes. Articles should include an abstract in English and in French, and a list of keywords.
As this is an online journal, it is possible to include active links to external content, as well as multimedia material (sound, video, animation), to be placed in the body of the text or in an appendix, as appropriate. For the proposal, to be submitted in separate files with a place holder in the article text.
Articles will be anonymously reviewed by two reviewers. Further specification will be communicated to the authors of accepted articles. The style sheet and guidelines for authors are already available on the journal site

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Bauman, H-Dirksen L., Nelson, Jennifer L. & Rose, Heidi M. (2006) Signing the Body Poetic, Essays on American Sign Language Literature. Oakland: University of California Press.
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