Linguistics and English Language

Linguistic Circle

Speaker: Gabrielle Hodge (University of Edinburgh, LEL)

Title: Referencing in deaf community signed languages

Abstract: Research on referencing in deaf community signed languages such as BSL and ASL suggests that deaf signers’ choice of referring expressions are primarily motivated by information management, i.e., lexicalised nouns and noun phrases are typically used to introduce new referents, whereas maintained and reintroduced referents are often indexed and/or depicted via pointing signs, indicating verbs, depicting signs and/or visible enactments (e.g. Morgan, 2006; Frederiksen & Mayberry, 2016). This aligns with findings described in the canonical literature for referencing in spoken languages (e.g., Chafe, 1976; Givón, 1983). Yet many other aspects of communication influence how signers do reference. For example, signers often create ‘invisible surrogates’, whereby a confluence of indexing actions enables us to conceptualise an entity as located in the signing space and behave as if it were present (Engberg-Pedersen, 1993; Liddell, 2003). Other factors known to influence referencing in spoken languages, such as animacy or non/humanness, can also be considered for signed languages (see Clark & Bangerter, 2004; Dahl, 2008; Haig & Schnell, 2016). This talk brings together two corpus investigations of referencing in Auslan and a cross-linguistic comparison between Auslan and four other deaf community signed languages (Hodge, et al. 2018; Hodge, et al. 2019; Ferrara, et al. 2022). I describe the key factors we identified as influencing Auslan signers’ choice of referring expressions, and whether other signed languages with similar historical trajectories and ecological contexts pattern in the same or different ways. I will also discuss what this can tell us about the broader principles for multimodal referencing during face-to-face interactions, and implications for linguistic theory.

Further information

Please join us for a reception after the talk in the Dugald Stewart Building, 7th Floor common area.

Contact details

Linguistic Circle committee

Nov 02 2023 -

Linguistic Circle

2023-11-02: Referencing in deaf community signed languages

G.04 Screening Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LH; online