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Show Me What You've B/Seen: A Brief History of Depiction

  • Beukeleers, Inez; 112070;
  • Vermeerbergen, Myriam;
Publication Date
Jul 11, 2022
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Already at a relatively early stage, modern sign language linguistics focused on the representation of (actions, locations, and motions of) referents (1) through the use of the body and its different articulators and (2) through the use of particular handshapes (in combination with an orientation, location, and/or movement). Early terminology for (1) includes role playing, role shifting, and role taking and for (2) classifier constructions/predicates and verbs of motion and location. More recently, however, new terms, including enactment and constructed action for (1) and depicting signs for (2) have been introduced. This article provides a brief overview of the history of enactment and depiction in the sign linguistic literature but mainly focuses on issues related to terminology (and terminology shifts). First, we consider the relation between role shifting and constructed action. We question the idea that these terms can be used interchangeably and rather suggest that they capture different, but related functions. Subsequently, we zoom in on the conceptualization of depicting signs, indicating verbs, pointing signs and fully lexical signs and the relation between these signs and the method of depicting. Where earlier research often associates depicting with the use of specific types of structures, we promote the idea that depicting is a semiotic diverse practice. In doing so, we show that the conceptualization of the different sign types and the terms that are used to refer to these phenomena do not accurately capture the way these signs are used in actual signed discourse and propose a reconceptualization of the different sign types in the lexico-grammar of Flemish Sign Language (VGT) as composite signs that can describe, depict and indicate meaning in various ways. In this way, this article illustrates (1) the risks that may come with the execution of terminology shifts and (2) the importance of making a clear distinction between form and function, i.e., we show that it is important to be careful with assuming a (too) exclusive relation between a certain function and one or more particular forms. / status: published

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