Sandwich Construction and Narrative Coherence in ASL Storytelling
Swarthmore College. Dept. of Linguistics
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In general. while sign language storytelling and spoken language storytelling share many larger-scope narrative strategies such as parallelism, repetition, and meta-narrational devices, the visual-spatial modality of sign languages offers a very different manner of conveying action and developing narratives on a smaller scale than does the aural-oral modality (Cook 2011). Part of this difference stems from the presence of visually illustrative structures in sign languages, including embodied role-shilling and classifier constructions. This work will examine how a particular syntactic structure involving these illustrative components, here called "sandwiching," is used as a narrative strategy in American Sign Language (ASL). The structure consists of a combination of signing methods arranged in an ABA sequence. where A and B are each instances of embodiment. frozen signs, or classifier constructions. It will be argued that in ASL, storytelling. these ABA structures arc employed largely to develop and maintain narrative coherence, defined as the achievement of consistency and continuity of various kinds of narrative information, including spatial and temporal structure (Pemiss 2007).