In this paper, we compare so-called "classifier" constructions in signed languages (which we refer to as "depicting constructions") with comparable iconic gestures produced by non-signers. We show clear correspondences between entity constructions and observer viewpoint gestures on the one hand, and handling constructions and character viewpoint gestures on the other. Such correspondences help account for both lexicalisation and de-lexicalisation processes in signed languages and how these processes are influenced by viewpoint. Understanding these processes is crucial when coding and annotating natural sign language data. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.