Research & Scholarly Achievement
at Gallaudet University

Affective constructions in American Sign Language

ID: 2245
Status: Completed
Start date: September 2013
End Date: May 2015


This project investigates how American Sign Language (ASL) users describe situations in which someone experiences an emotional reaction to a stimulus. Previous research on such events has focused on spoken languages. This is the first in-depth study of affective constructions in a signed language. Native Deaf users of ASL will view a film in which characters undergo emotional reactions. The participants will retell the story to an ASL native Deaf interviewer. Then participants will be asked to describe individual clips from the film in as many ways as possible. Finally, they will watch a video of a Deaf model describing the clips and judge the grammaticality of each sentence. The elicited data will be analyzed for patterns of construction types that provide insight to the language's approach to describing affective events. The findings from this project will shed light on how ASL construes focus in nonphysical relationships, such as emotional interactions. The results will speak to grammaticality with respect to word order, use of space, eye gaze, and other features of signed languages that are unique from spoken languages. The outcomes have implications for language course curriculum, literacy curriculum, interpreter education, and mental health settings.

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