The Points Of Language

  • Richard P. Meier Department of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • Diane Lillo-Martin Department of Linguistics, University of Connecticut, USA
Keywords: Pointing, Sign languages, Gesture


Signed languages display a variety of pointing signs that serve the functions of deictic and anaphoric pronouns, possessive and reflexive pronouns, demonstratives, locatives, determiners, body part labels, and verb agreement. We consider criteria for determining the linguistic status of pointing signs. Among those criteria are conventionality, indexicality, phonological compositionality, being subject to grammatical constraints, and marking the kinds of grammatical distinctions expected of pronouns. We conclude that first-person points meet all these proposed criteria, but that nonfirst person points are in part gestural. Lastly, we review evidence for the grammaticization over time of systems of pointing signs within signed languages.

How to Cite
Meier, R., & Lillo-Martin, D. (2013). The Points Of Language. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 6(24), 151-176. Retrieved from