G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)
Understanding nonmanuality : a study on the actions of the head and body in Finnish sign language (2019)

Puupponen, Anna (2019). Understanding nonmanuality : a study on the actions of the head and body in Finnish sign language. JYU dissertations, 78. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän yliopisto. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-7761-0

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Puupponen, Anna

eISBN: 978-951-39-7761-0

Journal or series: JYU dissertations

eISSN: 2489-9003

Publication year: 2019

Number in series: 78

Number of pages in the book: 1 verkkoaineisto (114 sivua, 133 sivua useina numerointijaksoina) :

Publisher: Jyväskylän yliopisto

Place of Publication: Jyväskylä

Publication country: Finland

Publication language: English

Persistent website address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-7761-0

Open Access: Publication published in an open access channel


This dissertation, consisting of four articles and this Overview, reports a study on nonmanuality, that is, the actions of the face, head and body, in Finnish Sign Language (FinSL). More specifically, the study focuses on a relatively understudied area of nonmanuality: the actions of the signer’s head and body. The study is theoretically rooted in usage-based linguistics, sign language linguistics, gesture studies and semiotics, and the analysis is made and the conclusions are drawn on the basis of corpus narratives and dialogues as well as synchronized Motion Capture and digital video recordings of FinSL. The study investigates the forms and functions of the actions of the head and body, the relationship between the actions of these two body parts, and the connection between a particular type of head movement, a head nod, and the actions of the signer’s hands in FinSL. The study also presents a theoretical view of the signals from the signer’s head and body according to Peircean and post-Peircean semiotics, and discusses the role of nonmanuality in sign languages. The results of the study show that (i) forms and functions of the actions of the head and body form prototypes rather than discrete classes, and that these actions rarely show conventional pairing of one form to one function; (ii) the head and the torso cannot be seen as one articulator, and the co-occurring signals from these two body parts come together into combinations that differ in their degree of complexity both formally and functionally; (iii) systematicity can be found in the co-occurrence of head nods and manual syntactic units in FinSL; (iv) head and body movements involve different proportions of iconicity, indexicality and symbolicity, of which indexicality is generally the most prominent feature; (v) in signed utterances, nonmanual signals are one part of a semiotically complex but communicationally holistic whole; (vi) nevertheless, there are differences in how complementary co-occurring signals are, and in what the central semiotic features of signals from different parts of the signer’s body are; and finally, (vii) that these semiotic centralities can be partly traced back to the physical and anatomical characteristics of different parts of the signer’s body, and that nonmanual signals demonstrate how signification, language and cognition are intrinsically connected to how humans navigate in their physical and social surroundings with their bodies. Keywords: sign language, nonmanuality, head movement, body movement, semiotics, iconicity, indexicality, symbolicity.

Keywords: sign language; Finnish Sign Language; signs (sign language); body language; gestures; nonverbal communication; semiotics

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

Last updated on 2020-09-07 at 11:47