Chapter One continued...
Thus, the motion direction of lexical relational signs is not necessarily specified with respect to the signer's own left and right. Rather, the movement of the sign can specify a left/right direction from a particular vantage point indicated within the plane of signing space (in this case, the first corner of Maple Street). Such spatial manipulations of relational terms appear to be only possible when signing space performs a "Diagrammatic" function and is not "Viewer-centered" (see below).
Usage of NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST.
Unlike their usage in English, ASL cardinal directions did not differ for survey and route descriptions, but this may be due to a floor effect, since signers produced so few cardinal direction signs. The citation forms are shown in Figure 4. Like the relational signs in citation form, the cardinal direction signs appear to be specified in the lexicon with respect to the left-right body axis. For example, the sign WEST is specified as moving toward the left rather than toward the "nondominant side." For both left and right handers, the sign WEST moves toward the left, and the sign EAST moves toward the right. The direction of movement is fixed with respect to the signer's left and right, unlike other signs whose direction of motion changes, depending upon the handedness of the signer.
As with the relational signs, within a discourse, signers can alter the direction of motion of cardinal direction signs to indicate direction with respect to locations mapped out in signing space. Figure 5 provides two examples. In both, the signers are describing the Town. In example A, the signer is describing driving east on River Highway, and she produces the sign EAST away from her body indicating the direction of the road as it stretches in front of her. In example B, the signer is using space to map locations in the Town on a horizontal plane. As in example A, the signer has "shifted" the orientation of the actual map (shown in Figure 1a) with respect to signing space so that River Highway is described as a path traced outward and away from the signer (not shown in Figure 5b).