Perniss, P. M.
Use of sign space. In R. Pfau, M. Steinbach, & B. Woll (Eds.
), Sign Language: an International Handbook
(pp. 412-431). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
This chapter focuses on the semantic and pragmatic uses of space. The questions addressed concern how sign space (i.e. the area of space in front of the signer’s body) is
used for meaning construction, how locations in sign space are associated with discourse
referents, and how signers choose to structure sign space for their communicative intents.
The chapter gives an overview of linguistic analyses of the use of space, starting with the
distinction between syntactic and topographic uses of space and the different types of
signs that function to establish referent-location associations, and moving to analyses
based on mental spaces and conceptual blending theories. Semantic-pragmatic conventions for organizing sign space are discussed, as well as spatial devices notable in the visual-spatial modality (particularly, classifier predicates and signing perspective), which influence and determine the way meaning is created in sign space. Finally, the special role of simultaneity in sign languages is discussed, focusing on the semantic and discourse-pragmatic functions of simultaneous constructions.