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Topic-comment sentences

As you know, the world if full of different languages, each with their own words, rules, grammer. Like any language, New Zealand Sign Language has its own grammer too, including rules about word order. Some of these rules are the same as English, while others are quite different. One of the most obvious rules about New Zealand Sign Language word order relates to a sequence called 'topic-comment'. This means the sentence begins with the topic you want to discuss and ends with the comment about that topic. The tricky thing can be knowing when the topic ends and the comment is beginning. New Zealand Sign Languages does this through the use of NMS – non-manual signals, facial expressions.

Have a look at some examples. Try and catch how the signers show the separation between the topic and comment parts of their sentence.

As you can see, for topic-comment sentences, when signing the topic raise your eyebrows then return them to normal for the comment. Perhaps you also notice that when signing the topic, the signer holds the last topic sign a bit longer before lowering their eyebrows back to normal and signing the comment part.

The topic-comment word order is used a lot in New Zealand Sign Language, so it's a good idea to practice them.

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