A central tenet of systemic functional theory is the rank scale: an ordered representation of the part-whole relationships of units within semiotic systems. Linguists have schematised the rank scales for the lexicogrammars of English, French, Spanish and Chinese, to name a few. However, such schematisation has yet to occur for languages in the visual-spatial modality (i.e., sign languages).
This paper contributes to current literature by establishing a working schematisation of the lexicogrammatical rank scale of British Sign Language (BSL). By taking a glottocentric perspective and with reference to systemic functional theory and BSL data, this work demonstrates that it is possible to create an organised rank scale for a language operating the visual-spatial modality as long as the productive simultaneity found within is accounted for sufficiently. This is enacted through a more detailed elaboration of the morpheme rank, so that higher ranks may be represented accurately.
This study provides the foundations for similar rank scales of semiotic systems operating in the visual-spatial modality to be schematised, while also suggesting areas for further empirical investigation in both systemic functionalism and sign linguistics.
Rudge, L. A. (2020). Situating simultaneity: An initial schematisation of the lexicogrammatical rank scale of British Sign Language. Word, 66(2), 98-118. https://doi.org/10.1080/00437956.2020.1751974