Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

The Relationship between Movements and Positions of the Head and the Torso in Finnish Sign Language

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

The Relationship between Movements and Positions of the Head and the Torso in Finnish Sign Language

Article excerpt

Nonmanuals (i.e., movements and positions of the torso, head, and upper and lower face) are considered to be an integral part of sign languages. In order to form a theory of nonmanuals and the role of nonmanuality in a sign language, one must investigate the forms and functions of articulations of the torso, the head, and the face separately, as well as in relation to each other and to the articulation of the hands. Research on various sign languages has provided much information on facial articulation (see, e.g., Wilbur and Patschke 1999; Boyes Braem and Sutton-Spence 2001). For example, studies have been done on the articulation of the lower and upper face (e.g., mouth actions, eye aperture, eyebrow position) in relation to lexical signs or the informational structure of utterances in several sign languages (ibid.). However, studies that focus specifically on the forms and functions of torso and head movements are not so common (see, e.g., Liddell 1986; Schalber 2006; Lackner 2013). Movements of the head have been observed in negations, affirmations, and interrogatives (e.g., Zeshan 2006; Wilbur 2000; Lackner 2013; Puupponen et al. 2015) and in the marking of prosodic units or their boundaries (e.g., Wilbur 2000; Sandler 2012). Body movements have been found to play a part in constructed action (CA), to contribute to the meaningful use of space in signed discourse, and to coincide with different discourse-level units (Engberg-Pedersen 1993; Wilbur and Patschke 1998; Boyes Braem 1999; Crasborn and van der Kooij 2013; Hodge and Ferrara 2013).

In FinSL, research on nonmanuality has investigated mouthings and mouth gestures (Pimiä 1987; Raino 2001; Rauhansalo 2015). Observations of head movements and facial articulation in interrogatives and negatives have been noted (Savolainen 2006), while more recent phonetic research has concentrated on the forms and functions of head movements (Puupponen 2012; Puupponen et al. 2015). As in the linguistics literature on other sign languages, studies of torso movements and positions in FinSL are far fewer in number, apart from individual references to body movements in constructed action (Rissanen 1992; Luckasczyk 2008; Jantunen 2007), syntactic boundaries in equative sentences (Jantunen 2007), and coordination (Jantunen 2016). Consequently, the relationship between the torso and the head in the articulation of FinSL also remains unexplored. An exception is Jantunen et al. (2012), who found that, according to motion-capture location data on continuous signing, the correlation between movements of the torso and the head is very strong.

Our knowledge of the relationship between the articulations of the torso and the head is still quite limited. Movements of the head and the torso have been addressed in sign language literature in various ways. Some studies have dealt with the actions of the torso and the head as a single unit, whereas others have emphasized the independence of different nonmanual channels. Wilbur and Patschke (1998) discuss contrastive stress in American Sign Language (ASL) and, when referring to a body lean, take into account the various movements "of the body, shoulders or head" (ibid., 279). In addition, a study of contrastive focus structures in the Sign Language of the Netherlands finds that movements of the body vary according to whether they are produced with only the head or with the head and the torso together (Crasborn and van der Kooij 2013, following Wilbur and Patschke 1998 and van der Kooij, Crasborn, and Emmerik 2006).

On the other hand, when addressing the simultaneous layering of nonmanuals in ASL, Wilbur (2000) underlines the independence of different nonmanual channels, such as head position, body position, and the activities of different parts of the face. In this context Wilbur implies that one nonmanual marker may be produced with different nonmanual articulators. However, it remains unclear whether a single nonmanual element tends to be a combination of the activities of several nonmanual articulators (such as the torso and the head) or whether these separate channels alone are commonly used to produce individual nonmanual elements. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.