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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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From Topic Boundaries to Omission: New Research on Interpretation
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photo 6.1. In this photograph, the discourse strategy is “constructed dialogue” with the features of head and eyes gazing to the right and down, torso leaning back and left, and index to right.

Filled pause. A filled pause is a sign that is held in space while all other movement stops. This type of pause occurs at the end of a segment, topic, or important idea. It focuses attention on the idea or topic that has just ended and is a cue to the importance of that segment or idea in the overall meaning of the text (see Photo 6.2)

photo 6.2. Example of a filled pause

Prosodic pause. A prosodic pause is a pause that marks a boundary at the phrase or sentence level. These pauses help the watcher identify the beginnings and ends of sentences, the subject and object of a single idea, and the beginnings and ends of phrases in discourse structures such as listing and conditional clauses. In Photos 6.3a and 6.3b, the utterance in line 97 ends in Photo 6.3a, and a new utterance in line 98 begins in Photo 6.3b. The torso and head are slightly forward and to the right at the end of the utterance; as the next utterance begins in line 98, the torso and head have shifted to the center.


“a. 97 . . . experience fear.”                      “b. 98 Therefore . . .”

photos 6.3a and 6.3b. Example of utterance boundary between lines 97 and 98, marked by torso and head shift from forward right to center

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