Comparing action gestures and classifier verbs of motion: evidence from Australian sign language, Taiwan sign language, and nonsigners' gestures without speech

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Recent research into signed languages indicates that signs may share some properties with gesture, especially in the use of space in classifier constructions. A prediction of this proposal is that there will be similarities in the representation of motion events by sign-naïve gesturers and by native signers of unrelated signed languages. This prediction is tested for deaf native signers of Australian Sign Language (Auslan), deaf signers of Taiwan Sign Language (TSL), and hearing nonsigners using the Verbs of Motion Production task from the Test Battery for American Sign Language (ASL) Morphology and Syntax. Results indicate that differences between the responses of nonsigners, Auslan signers, and TSL signers and the expected ASL responses are greatest with handshape units; movement and location units appear to be very similar. Although not definitive, these data are consistent with the claim that classifier constructions are blends of linguistic and gestural elements.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272–290
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
Issue number3
Early online date27 Apr 2005
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005