Pointing signs, depicting signs and manual gestures are all used for meaningful expression in Auslan, as are full or partial body enactments to demonstrate action or dialogue. This article outlines a corpus-driven approach to identifying clause-like units in a native signed language and investigates the use of pointing signs, depicting signs, gestures and enactments to express core elements of possible clause-like units in Auslan narratives. We explore the frequency and distribution of the core argument and predicate elements of single clause-like units that were identified in elicited retellings of an Aesop's fable which have been archived in the Auslan Corpus. Core elements of these units are described according to sign type, the order in which they appear and handedness (articulation with the strong or weak hand). We find that one-third of the core elements in the single clause-like units in these Auslan narratives are expressed via pointing signs, depicting signs, gestures and enactments, in various orders. This study uses empirical corpus-based data to contribute insights into the use of composite utterances in a signed language and therefore on the way meaning is negotiated between interactants.
- sign language
- corpus linguistics