Volume 18, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN 1568-1475
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9773
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Research on narratives in an Australian language demonstrated surprising facts about speakers’ spatial orientation and knowledge both in the insistent use of morphologically hypertrophied spoken directional terminology and in accompanying gestures. Pursuing comparable phenomena in a Mayan language from the other side of the globe revealed correspondingly complex gestural devices for communicating about location and direction but with very different kinds of support from speech. Evidence from a new sign language, emerging in the same Mayan context, suggests that mechanisms for signing about space both resemble and depart from the gestural practices of the surrounding speech community. In particular, they invoke spatial “frames of reference” not used by speakers to sign about location and direction, and they employ signed “spatial grammar” to express syntactic argument structure.


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