Left/right and front/back in sign, speech, and co-speech gestures: what do data from Turkish sign language, croatian sign language, American sign language, Turkish, Croatian, and English reveal?
Research has shown that spoken languages differ from each other in their representation of space. Using hands, body, and physical space in front of signers to represent space, do sign languages differ from each other? To what extent are they similar to spoken languages in their expressions of spatial relations? The present study targeted these questions by exploring the descriptions of static situations in sign languages (Turkish Sign Language, Croatian Sign Language, American Sign Language) and spoken languages, including co-speech gestures (Turkish, Croatian, and English). It is found that signed and spoken languages differ from each other in their linguistic constructions for the left/right and front/back spatial relation. They also differ from one another in their mapping strategies. Crucially, being a signer does not require more direct iconic mappings than a speaker would use. It is also found that co-speech gestures can complement spoken language descriptions.