Signalling referential shift

In signed discourse, moving between referential frameworks involves signalling the changes between the different points of view, which serves as a means to create cohesion (Morgan 1999: 47). Different non-manual markers can be used to signal referential shift, in particular, body/head orientation, eye gaze and facial expression (for ASL Lillo-Martin 1995: 158; Emmorey & Reilly 1998; for DGS Herrmann & Steinbach 2007: 161f.).

Body shifting (and head movement). Signers shift the shoulders slightly to the right or left / backward or forward. For example, if the locus for “MARIA” was established at point 1, to the right of the signer, in example (59), then shifting the body and the head position to the left marks the adoption of her point of view, as illustrated in example (60).

Eye gaze. Break in the eye gaze with the addressee is another non-manual means signifying referential shift. Further, the use of different eye gaze levels allows shifts in perspective to be accomplished in the same representational space. Signers may lean forward, looking down (indicates a smaller interlocutor) or lean back, looking up (indicates a taller interlocutor) (Herrmann & Steinbach 2007: 161).

Shifted facial expression. Referential shift is also marked through a change in facial expression as the signer adopts the facial expression of the referent (or character) whose point of view is being expressed (Lillo-Martin 1995: 158; Emmorey & Reilly 1998: 82).

Lexical means. In addition to non-manual markers, signers have been found to use lexical means to signal referential shifts in storytelling. Morgan (1999: 51), for example, remarks on the use of perceptual verbs such as look-left or look-up to signal movement from one representational space to another in BSL discourse. Narrator’s comments and mutual eye gaze with the audience are also used to indicate a shift in reference (Morgan 1999: 48).

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