Polite appearances: How non-manual features convey politeness in British Sign Language

Rachel Mapson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper explores how non-manual features are key to conveying linguistic politeness in British Sign Language (BSL). Data were collected through five semi-structured interviews incorporating the elicitation of two speech acts commonly associated with research on linguistic politeness: requests and apologies. The data from this exploratory study suggest that non-manual features (including specific mouth gestures and movements of the head and upper body) are more crucial for linguistic politeness than manual signs. The data indicate a degree of commonality between the features used for politeness in BSL and those previously identified in American Sign Language (Roush 1999; Hoza 2001, 2007). While non-manual features convey both linguistic and paralinguistic meaning in signed language (Sandler and Lillo-Martin 2006), their use in politeness highlights the complexity of the interaction between these two functions and illuminates an aspect of politeness frequently overlooked in much research: the use of intonation. Analysis of the use of non-manual features for politeness also problematizes the categorization of politeness strategies using existing frameworks developed on spoken languages, such as the internal modifications outlined by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-184
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Signed language
  • British Sign Language
  • intonation
  • prosody
  • politeness marker
  • non-manual features
  • BODY LEANS
  • REQUESTS
  • PROSODY
  • SPEECH
  • DEAF
  • NETHERLANDS
  • INTONATION
  • PATTERNS
  • LEARNERS

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