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Linguistics: Spatial Grammar

  • By: Jordan Fenlon
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

One of the ways in which signed languages differ from spoken languages is in their extensive use of space. This is apparent at different levels of linguistic organization. For example, space can be used to make contrasts at the phonological level through changes in the location parameter, and signers may arrange themes within signing space to structure their discourse. Here, the referential and topographic uses of space within signed languages generally will be discussed with examples from British Sign Language (BSL).

A clear example of the use of space in signed languages lies within their pronominal systems. Pronouns can be directed toward a location in space associated with their intended referents. For example, a BSL signer may associate a location on their right (x) with a ...

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