Arnfinn Vonen has a doctorate in linguistics (University of Oslo, 1994) and is professor (since 1997) in the Department of Special Needs Education, University of Oslo, Norway, where he is currently Head of Department and responsible for basic courses in sign language theory. His research in Deaf Studies has focused on linguistic and educational issues of bilingualism involving a signed and a spoken language, mostly in affiliation with Skådalen Resource Centre, a state-run centre for the education of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deafblind individuals in Oslo. He is involved with the Signo Foundation (Norway) and the Amity Foundation (PR China) in a bilingual deaf education project in China ("SigAm"). His research interests include also the grammar of Norwegian Sign Language.
Norwegian Sign Language (NSL) is used by the Deaf community in Norway and has close historical ties with other European sign languages such as Danish Sign Language and French Sign Language. Being a minority language in Norway, it is subject to influence from Norwegian, a Germanic language. Being part of an ongoing description of the pronoun system of NSL, the present paper focuses on Norwegian influence on the pronoun system. A number of results of such influence will be described and discussed, such as (i) the introduction of a category of gender through mouthing (mouth movement patterns borrowed from Norwegian); (ii) the introduction of a distinction between second and third person through mouthing, and in the plural, a tempo distinction in the manual movement corresponding to the number of syllables in the Norwegian pronouns; and (iii) the introduction of a category of case through mouthing, and in the singular, the use of the manual component of the sign PERSON to express the objective/accusative. I will describe these phenomena as they are currently observed in NSL pronouns and specify the linguistic and sociolinguistic functions of each of the processes mentioned. Some of the processes were part of a language "standardization" attempt that was carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, before the breakthrough of the acceptance of NSL as a language in its own right. The aim of this language planning process was that of making NSL more "logical", "meaningful" etc. by changing its grammatical structure to become more similar to that of Norwegian. I will discuss, therefore, the impact of this language planning process on the pronoun system of NSL.