Beth C. Gray

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

J. Albert Bickford


Depiction, a phenomenon similar to iconicity, involves representing what something "looks like or is like" (Streeck 2008:289). Because depiction is used more heavily in sign languages than spoken languages (Dudis 2007), people interpreting or translating spoken/written texts into signed languages struggle to use depiction naturally (Thumann 2011). This thesis analyzes constructed action (CA) and constructed dialogue (CD), two types of depiction in which the signer's hands represent those of a discourse participant. Using Tannen (1989) & Metzger's (1995) framework of non-directly-quoted CACD and Quinto-Pozos & Mehta's (2010) degrees of CA, I examine differences between narratives originally composed in ASL and narrative segments from Genesis and Exodus that have been translated into ASL, all of which were signed by Deaf users of ASL. This analysis indicates that translated texts are slower and use less non-directly-quoted CD than non-translated texts. Measuring depiction can improve the naturalness of these and other translations.

The data supporting this thesis is publicly available at

There are three texts originally composed in ASL and six texts which are portions of the Bible translated into ASL (two passages by three different organizations). They are accompanied by ELAN annotation files that formed the basis for the analysis in the thesis.