American Sign Language (ASL) makes extensive use of pointing signs, but there has been only limited documentation of how pointing signs are used for demonstrative functions. We elicited demonstratives from four adult Deaf signers of ASL in a puzzle completion task. Our preliminary analysis of the demonstratives produced by these signers supports three important conclusions in need of further investigation. First, despite descriptions of four demonstrative signs in the literature, participants expressed demonstrative function 95% of the time through pointing signs. Second, proximal and distal demonstrative referents were not distinguished categorically on the basis of different demonstrative signs, nor on the basis of pointing handshape or trajectory. Third, non-manual features including eye gaze and facial markers were essential to assigning meaning to demonstratives. Our results identify new avenues for investigation of demonstratives in ASL.
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