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Verbs in Catalan Sign Language use the space in front of the signer’s body to express grammatical meaning. We can distinguish three main groups: verbs that do not modify their form; verbs that modify their form depending on the subject/object; and verbs that modify their form depending on some locative information. Let’s have a look at each group together with some examples.

The first group are plain verbs, which include “to think”, “to live”, “to play”. These verbs are signed in the same way, regardless of who does the action. We first express the pronoun (‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he/she’) and then we sign “think” without any modification.

The second group includes verbs that modify their form to indicate the subject and object of the sentence. These are directional verbs. “To help”, for example, is a directional verb and we sign it differently depending on who is helping whom. Therefore, “I help my sister” or “my sister helps me” are signed differently. The direction of the palm of the hand and the finger tips varies according to who does the action and who receives it. Other directional verbs include, for example: “to understand” (“I understand you”, “you understand me”), “to thank” (“you thank me”, “I thank you”), “attract” (“you attract me”, “I attract you””), “to choose” (“I choose you”, “you choose me”), “to tell” (“I tell you”, “you tell me”).

The third group of verbs consists in verbs which modify their articulation according to the place where the action takes place. Some examples of these spatial verbs are “to put” (“to put something in a drawer” will be signed low in sign space, while “to put something in a shelf” will be signed up), and “to operate” (the sign will be articulated close to the part of the body operated).

This is the basic information you will need for this introductory course. However, if you want to learn about specific elements of grammatical agreement in greater detail, we recommend consulting the Basic Grammar section of the Catalan Sign Language Website.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Catalan Sign Language: Speaking with Your Hands and Hearing with Your Eyes

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

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