Constructed action in american sign language: A look at second language learners in a second modality

Kim B. Kurz, Kellie Mullaney, Corrine Occhino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Constructed action is a cover term used in signed language linguistics to describe multi-functional constructions which encode perspective-taking and viewpoint. Within constructed action, viewpoint constructions serve to create discourse coherence by allowing signers to share perspectives and psychological states. Character, observer, and blended viewpoint constructions have been well documented in signed language literature in Deaf signers. However, little is known about hearing second language learners’ use of constructed action or about the acquisition and use of viewpoint constructions. We investigate the acquisition of viewpoint constructions in 11 college students acquiring American Sign Language (ASL) as a second language in a second modality (M2L2). Participants viewed video clips from the cartoon Canary Row and were asked to “retell the story as if you were telling it to a deaf friend”. We analyzed the signed narratives for time spent in character, observer, and blended viewpoints. Our results show that despite predictions of an overall increase in use of all types of viewpoint constructions, students varied in their time spent in observer and character viewpoints, while blended viewpoint was rarely observed. We frame our preliminary findings within the context of M2L2 learning, briefly discussing how gestural strategies used in multimodal speech-gesture constructions may influence learning trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • American Sign Language
  • Bimodal-bilinguals
  • Constructed action
  • Second-language acquisition
  • Viewpoint constructions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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