Chapter 8

Pronominal reference

The use of space is a unique characteristic of the pronominal system of sign languages. The spatial nature of the pronominal system is largely assumed to be a “modality effect”, i.e. a structure existing due to the properties of the visual-gestural modality, in which sign language are transmitted (Lillo-Martin, 2002; Sandler & Lillo-Martin, 2006). Previous linguistic research indicates that all signed languages similarly use the space around the signer to convey pronominal reference (McBurney, 2004). Below I demonstrate, however, that not all sign languages conceptualize space in a similar way to encode pronominal reference (see 8.4.6 for the investigation of pronominal reference in YSL).

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