Education

Is the sign language only in the hands We teach to sign #12

Sign language is not only signs, but also facial expressions or the so-called body language. But it is not so obvious to everyone. What was the research on non-manualness in sign language like? The topic is introduced by Natalia Gałecka in the twelfth episode "We teach to sign!" (Automatic translation. You have noticed an error - please let us know)

Non-manualness in sign language

At the beginning of research on sign linguistics, sign language was associated primarily with the movement of hands. A hearing researcher, seeing a sign language user, paid attention mainly to his hands. Researchers knew that in sign signs it is important to: the shape of the hand, the place of articulation and the movement performed during this articulation. William Stokoe, who was the first sign language researcher, noticed facial expressions in sign language, but he did not consider it grammatically significant.

The meaning of non-manualness, i.e. the movement of the body, head, eyebrows, eyes and mouth – in visual-spatial languages linguists did not get interested until later, around 1980. This late linguistic recognition of non-manual elements stems from the pursuit of official recognition of sign languages as equivalent to phonic languages. Therefore, linguists have tried to look for similarities between these languages, e.g. an indication of grammar rules.

Hearing people may associate non-manual elements present in phonic communication only with gestures, that is, with something that is an optional addition to the transmitted message and does not belong to the structure of the language. However, in the case of sign languages, non-manualities are an equivalent element of the language, therefore they had to be included in the grammatical system.

“NON-MANUAL elements”

Let us consider the name itself, which includes the negation – “NON-MANUAL elements”. In 2014, a group of researchers drew attention to the terminology used by linguists. It was emphasized that non-manual elements should not be characterized solely for what they are not, that is, they are non-manual. These elements should be defined in a neutral manner, which will further highlight their important role in sign languages. This is an interesting point of view, perhaps in the following years researchers of sign languages they will create a different term for non-manual elements. Remember – non-manual elements are very important to correctly and fully understand someone else’s statement. Despite the development of sign linguistics in the world, research, among others over the non-manual are still needed, because there are still many things waiting to be discovered and confirmed.

The unique nature of non-manualness is evidenced by the fact that at the beginning of sign linguistics in Poland, researchers asked a deaf person to tell the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” in Polish sign language. The performance of this fairy tale was considered representative and credible, thanks to the “expressiveness of the message” and “a wealth of non-manual elements”.

Hope you liked this introduction to non-manualness in sign languages. In the next videos, I will show you what functions can be performed by head, body, eyebrow, eye and mouth movements. See you later!

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