Framing constructed action in British Sign Language narratives

K. Cormier, Sandra D Smith, M Zwets

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)
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    Constructed action is a discourse strategy, used widely within sign languages, in which the signer uses his/her face, head, body, hands, and/or other non-manual cues to represent a referent's actions, utterances, thoughts, feelings and/or attitudes. It is generally assumed that framing constructed action (i.e. identification of the referent) typically consists of a preceding noun phrase, but that this is optional (or even infelicitous), if the referent is understood in context. The current study tests these assumptions by examining the framing of constructed action within British Sign Language (BSL) narratives. We find that in cases of introduction or switch reference, local reference via a noun phrase is preferred, while in cases of maintenance of reference, omission of a noun phrase identifying the referent is preferred. This follows patterns found with framing of quotations and demonstrations in spoken languages and also with lexical verbs in both signed and spoken null subject/pro-drop languages. We argue that these patterns arise and are predictable based on accessibility of reference within the discourse.
    Translated title of the contributionFraming constructed action in British Sign Language narratives
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-139
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Early online date12 Jul 2013
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


    • Constructed action
    • Role shift
    • Constructed dialogue
    • Quotation
    • Demonstration
    • Accessibility


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