Locational pointing in Murrinhpatha, Gija and English conversations

Caroline de Dear, Joe Blythe, Francesco Possemato, Lesley Stirling, Rod Gardner, Ilana Mushin, Frances Kofod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


It has been suggested that the gestural accuracy used by speakers of Australian Aboriginal languages like Guugu Yimidhirr and Arrernte to indicate directions and represent topographic features is a consequence of absolute frame of reference being dominant in these languages; and that the lackadaisical points produced by North American English speakers is an outcome of relative frame being dominant in English. We test this claim by comparing locational pointing in contexts of place reference in conversations conducted in two Australian Aboriginal languages, Murrinhpatha and Gija, and in Australian English spoken by non-Aboriginal residents of a small town in north Western Australia. Pointing behaviour is remarkably similar across the three groups and all participants display a capacity to point accurately regardless of linguistic frame of reference options. We suggest that these speakers’ intimate knowledge of the surrounding countryside better explains their capacity to accurately point to distant locations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-452
Number of pages36
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • frames of reference
  • conversation
  • place reference
  • pointing


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