Understanding pronoun location choice in signed language discourse: grammar, semantics and pragmatics

Autor/a: SHAFFER, Barbara; JANZEN, Terence; LEESON, Lorraine
Año: 2012
Editorial: AVLIC, 2012
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística, Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


To some extent, motivations for the location feature of pronouns in signed languages can be seen, as when the signer points to a referent that is present and in view in some real space. This is then taken as extending to pointing to a space conceptualized as the location upon which a non-present reference is mapped. What has not been clear, however, is the degree of arbitrariness in the signer’s choice of location, given that non-present referents could effectively be positioned anywhere within the signer’s articulation space because they are not linked to any actual present space. In an earlier study, we examined the motivations underlying pronoun location in American Sign Language (ASL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) in corpora consisting of conversational and narrative data in the two languages. While it is the case that the observer (whether interlocutor or researcher) may not have access to the signer’s motivations because they are part of the signer’s conceptualization of events and of discourse needs, which may not be expressed overtly, we found that certain principles can been seen to determine much of the use of pronoun space, such that pronoun location choice is not by and large arbitrary. In this presentation, we look at the implications of how signers choose pronoun locations for interpreters, and at some of the issues that interpreters face. For example, signers tend to locate referents in narratives based on their conceptualization of a past spatial scene. If the interpreter has no access to a given past event, how does she position referents in her current space? Also, perspective taking has implications for where pronouns are positioned, and there is evidence that in “mentally-rotated space” (Janzen 2004), these spaces will differ depending on the perspective taken.