"Even the simplest narratives combine multiple strands of information, integrating different characters and their actions by expressing multiple perspectives of events. We examined the emergence of referential shift devices, which indicate changes among these perspectives, in Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL). Sign languages, like spoken languages, mark referential shift grammatically with a shift in deictic perspective. In addition, sign languages can mark the shift with a point or a movement of the body to a specified spatial location in the three-dimensional space in front of the signer, capitalizing on the spatial affordances of the manual modality. We asked whether the use of space to mark referential shift emerges early in a new sign language by comparing the first two age cohorts of deaf signers of NSL. Eight first-cohort signers and 10 second-cohort signers watched video vignettes and described them in NSL. Narratives were coded for lexical (use of words) and spatial (use of signing space) devices. Although the cohorts did not differ significantly in the number of perspectives represented, second-cohort signers used referential shift devices to explicitly mark a shift in perspective in more of their narratives. Furthermore, while there was no significant difference between cohorts in the use of non-spatial, lexical devices, there was a difference in spatial devices, with second-cohort signers using them in significantly more of their narratives. This suggests that spatial devices have only recently increased as systematic markers of referential shift. Spatial referential shift devices may have emerged more slowly because they depend on the establishment of fundamental spatial conventions in the language. While the modality of sign languages can ultimately engender the syntactic use of three-dimensional space, we propose that a language must first develop systematic spatial distinctions before harnessing space for grammatical functions."
I love this description of narrative, cognitive linguistics is a very interesting topic I think:
"Even the simplest narratives combine multiple strands of information, integrating different characters and their actions by expressing multiple perspectives of events."