Nonmanual Features (Facial expression (Facial expression in sign…
Facial expression also reveals the emotions or attitudes of the poet, and thus provides affective information about the events or characters in the story (that is, how the poet, as the narrator or the convenor of the story, feels about them).
Apart from showing the emotional state of characters, facial expressions are also used to differentiate various characters.
Facial expression in sign language literature fulfils several important functions.
It can show the characters’ various emotions, which can generate similar emotions in the audience as they watch: happiness, sadness, excitement, boredom, anger, fear, surprise, disdain, desire and so on.
The storyteller can identify different characters by attributing to each one a psychological state, level of intelligence or personality, such as shyness, stupidity, indifference or curiosity. Some characters may exhibit a mixture of these attributes.
Signing storytellers and performers, like actors, can show emotions directly through facial expression. Facial expression is an important constituent of oral literature and performance.
In some cases, an important turn of events can be indicated by facial expression alone, instead of manual signs (which normally convey the plot).
Performers adopt different gaze behaviours depending on their own style (each performer may favour a different gaze pattern), on the type of story or poem, or on the situation.
Gaze produces various metaphorical interpretations, making use of orientational metaphors.
The eyes provide a lot of information through their aperture and gaze. Eye aperture involves the degree of opening of the eyes.
It is usually considered part of facial expression. Gaze is the direction and length of the look, and will be discussed in detail here.
Six different types of gaze in creative sign language, based on a variety of criteria including gaze directions, functions, relationship with manual signs and the role of the poet.
Gaze to the audience (Narrator’s gaze).
Gaze can be directed at the audience (or to the camera). This gaze is usually understood as the narrator’s gaze as the performer looks straight at the audience to narrate, comment or explain what happens in the story.
The performer here becomes a character, and tells the story through his or her eyes.
The gaze simply follows the sign. The function of this gaze is to foreground, reinforce and ‘shed light on’ what the hands are doing (hence the term ‘spotlight’).
Reactive gaze also looks at the manual sign, but instead of highlighting and supporting the sign as in the case of spotlight gaze, it reacts to, reflects upon and sometimes even questions what hands are doing.
Panoptic gaze aims to provide a holistic (and substantial) description of a poetic scene through the eyes and hands highlighting different parts of it. In this sense, panoptic gaze is complementary to manual signs.
Prescient gaze foretells what will happen next by looking at a location where the next sign will occur. Unlike spotlight or reactive gaze in which the eyes follow the hands, prescient gaze precedes manual signs.
Gaze can give information about time.
Sign language is presented through two distinct channels: manual and nonmanual.
While the hands convey the essential content of a story or poem (what it is about), the nonmanual features play an important role in presenting such content.
Audiences of artistic sign language need to pay attention not only to the manual components but also to the face, eyes, mouth, head and body of the performer.
Like the eyes, the mouth can add several types of information to manual signs.
Researchers have identified two basic types of mouth action: mouthings and mouth gestures.
Mouthings have their origin in spoken language and may appear as if the signer is articulating the corresponding English word.
Mouth gestures are not related to spoken languages in any way and occur spontaneously in sign languages, often as part of constructed action.
Body postures and movements
Performers use the movement of the head, shoulder, and torso (that is, above the waist) to produce aesthetic effects.
The ‘forward’ chin position tends to indicate the signer’s interest or interference, and the ‘back’ position shows indifference or lack of engagement.