Elaborating who's what: a study of constructed action and clause structure in Auslan (Australian Sign Language)

Lindsay Ferrara, Trevor Johnston

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    46 Citations (Scopus)


    In spoken and signed language discourse, periods of gestural enactment, or constructed action, appear sequentially and simultaneously with linguistic signs. In the domain of signed language research, constructed action has been shown to be an important part of narrative discourse. However, there has yet to be much empirical investigation into its frequency or interaction with a signed language grammar. The current study addresses this gap with a corpus-based investigation of constructed action in Auslan (the native signed language of the Australian deaf community). We present evidence from 39 Auslan narratives that show constructed action may function as core elements of a clause-i.e. as the predicate or arguments. With these findings, we demonstrate how constructed action interacts with clause structure-to form tightly integrated composite utterances. The data show that any syntactic investigation of a signed language must acknowledge this type of gestural behaviour and consider its contribution to meaning construction. This work points toward the need for more investigation of constructed action in spoken language discourse.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)193-215
    Number of pages23
    JournalAustralian Journal of Linguistics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2014


    • signed language
    • constructed action
    • blending
    • argument structure
    • meaning construction


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