Some interactional functions of finger pointing in signed language conversations
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Interlocutors participating in conversation collaborate with each other to coordinate their actions and talk. Research on spoken language conversations has shown that speakers use bodily gestures, in addition to speech, to regulate their interaction. The current study expands on this research by investigating how signed language users finger point to express interactional meanings. Studies of pointing in signed languages have largely focused on referential functions, as signers frequently point to refer to themselves and others, as well as visible and invisible referents. However, this study demonstrates how signers also finger point to deliver information, cite previous contributions, seek responses, manage turns, and give feedback. These interactional meanings are important, just as identifying discourse referents is important. Language theory should be able to accommodate this complexity of language in conversation, which involves an interplay between different types of semiosis (description, depiction, indexicality) in an inclusive, systematic way.