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      Towards understanding nonmanuality: A semiotic treatment of signers’ head movements

      research-article
      1
      Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
      Ubiquity Press
      head movements, nonmanuality, sign languages, semiotics, iconic, indexical, symbolic

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          Abstract

          This article discusses a certain type of nonmanual action, signers’ head movements, from a semiotic perspective. It presents a typology of head movements and their iconic, indexical and symbolic features based on Peircean and post-Peircean semiotics. The paper argues for the view that (i) indexical strategies are very prominent in head movements, (ii) iconic features are most evident in enacting, while non-enacting description is less common, (iii) symbolic types for tokens are infrequent, although some movements—such as nodding and shaking the head—may become more conventional or schematized, and (iv) different types of head movements involve different proportions of iconicity, indexicality and symbolicity as well as different degrees of control in their production and interpretation. The treatment of head movements is extended to a discussion of semiotic versatility in the signification of actions of a signer’s body, as well as to the treatment of nonmanuals in the theoretical description of sign languages. Finally, the paper presents a perspective on nonmanuals in which different nonmanual cues are examples of how signification, and human cognition in general, are closely connected to the embodied experience of existing and navigating in the physical and social world around us.

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          Most cited references90

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          The Repertoire of Nonverbal Behavior: Categories, Origins, Usage, and Coding

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            Arbitrariness, Iconicity, and Systematicity in Language.

            The notion that the form of a word bears an arbitrary relation to its meaning accounts only partly for the attested relations between form and meaning in the languages of the world. Recent research suggests a more textured view of vocabulary structure, in which arbitrariness is complemented by iconicity (aspects of form resemble aspects of meaning) and systematicity (statistical regularities in forms predict function). Experimental evidence suggests these form-to-meaning correspondences serve different functions in language processing, development, and communication: systematicity facilitates category learning by means of phonological cues, iconicity facilitates word learning and communication by means of perceptuomotor analogies, and arbitrariness facilitates meaning individuation through distinctive forms. Processes of cultural evolution help to explain how these competing motivations shape vocabulary structure.
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              Gesture and speech in interaction: An overview

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2397-1835
                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Ubiquity Press
                2397-1835
                19 March 2019
                2019
                : 4
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Language and Communication Studies (Sign Language Centre), University of Jyväskylä, FI
                Article
                10.5334/gjgl.709
                0fd874af-f7d4-4d77-a36f-7118d8f4a4fa
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Categories
                Research

                General linguistics,Linguistics & Semiotics
                head movements,indexical,nonmanuality,iconic,symbolic,semiotics,sign languages

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