Iconic thumbs, pinkies and pointers

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Sign language research has shown that all sign languages have verbs of motion in which the movement expressed by the verb is combined with an animateentity handshape. These handshapes iconically represent certain salient characteristics of their referents, and are therefore referred to as ‘classifiers’. The objective of this paper is to describe and illustrate the nature of iconic handshapes (especially the thumb, pinky, and pointer) of classifier-like constructions in Japan Sign Language (JSL), and show how their functions and patterns of grammaticalization are in some ways similar to and in other ways different from those identified for classifiers in spoken languages


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