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Pointing and Reference in Sign Language and Spoken Language: Anchoring vs. Identifying

From: Sign Language Studies
Volume 13, Number 4, Summer 2013
pp. 491-515 | 10.1353/sls.2013.0016



In both signed and spoken languages, pointing serves to direct an addressee’s attention to a particular entity. This entity may be either present or absent in the physical context of the conversation. In this article we focus on pointing directed to nonspeaker/non addressee referents in Sign Language of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal, NGT) and spoken Dutch. Our main goal is to show that the semantic- pragmatic function of pointing signs and pointing gestures might be very different. The distinction is characterized in terms of anchoring and identifying. Whereas pointing signs can serve both functions, pointing gestures appear to lack the anchoring option.

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