Pinky Extension and Eye Gaze: Language Use in Deaf Communities

By Ceil Lucas | Go to book overview

Spatial Mapping and Involvement
in ASL Storytelling

Susan Mather

Elizaheth A. Winston

Spatial mapping is an essential ASL discourse feature and is used by fluent signers throughout discourse. Signers use space and spatial structuring in ASL to help the audience process the flow of information they are watching, structuring it into coherent and cohesive chunks of language. By using space both referentially and prosodically, signers can structure, or map, concepts in the signing space, evoking conceptual referents in the mind of the audience. Utterance boundaries can be marked in space. No specific entity needs to be mapped in the signing space; the utterance boundary can be recognized by the shifting of the signing space from one area to another. Referential mapping produces visual patterns in space, as in the juxtaposition of referential spaces in comparatives or the diagonal movement backward and forward on temporal maps. Prosodic use of space also produces visual patterns, from basic movements from point A to point B that bound utterances to the more rhythmic, flowing patterns of poetry and literature in ASL. Space in ASL serves as a foundation for linguistic and conceptual structures of ASL messages. Signers choose to use spatial strategies in order to render a message meaningful.

Fluent ASL signing is often noted for the fluid beauty of the signs and the visual patterns and structures. Nonfluent signing often lacks the fluidity and visual spatial patterns that make ASL a coherent language. Much ASL research has focused on isolated, often invented, linguistic structures, ignoring the use of the language in context. Thus, the spatial visual patterns that connect and make the language coherent have been overlooked.

____________________
This study was supported by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), U.S. Department of Education, CFDA 84.023N, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.: Visual Involvement in Literacy: Reading and Discussing Books with Three- to Eight-Year-Old Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, with Dr. Susan Mather as principal investigator.

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Pinky Extension and Eye Gaze: Language Use in Deaf Communities
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