Auslan and Matukar Panau: A modality-agnostic look at quotatives

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    Investigations of quotatives are essential for understanding how humans talk about talking. However, comparison of quotatives and other communicative phenomena have been hampered by theoretical paradigms that privilege Western, spoken, conventionalised forms of communication while marginalising others, including signed languages, visible bodily actions, vocal depiction, and non-Western communication practices more generally. Here we demonstrate how corpus typology methods can redress some of these biases and provide insights on how languages work and why they differ. We investigate the quotatives used by five pairs of Auslan signers and five groups of Matukar Panau speakers undertaking a narrative problem-solving picture task. We find that the signers and speakers in our study used almost unilaterally direct forms of quotatives. However, both groups preferred direct quotation of different narrative elements, with Matukar Panau speakers preferring to quote dialogue and thought, while Auslan signers preferred to quote action and dialogue. We employ a novel “expressivity index” to reveal a range of user variability within each language group. This study demonstrates how a modality-agnostic framework of comparative semiotics is useful for advancing our understanding of inter- and intra-language variability, while enriching our understanding of direct quotation in both signed and spoken language interactions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-125
    JournalLanguage Documentation & Conservation
    Issue numbern/a
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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