Level: Linguistics

Non-manual signals used in sign language

Non-manual signals or NMS for short (also, non-manual markers or NMMs) are grammatical and semantic features other than hands. They include mouth morphemes, eye gazes, facial expressions, body shifting, and head tilting.


ASL sign for NMS.

Non-manual signals are used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They also convey grammatical information such as topicalization, sentence types (wh-question, rh-question, yes/no question, etc.), etc.

In phonology, NMS is one of the five parameters in a sign. A sign or signed word consists of the five smallest units of language called parameters: handshape, movement, location, palm orientation, and non-manual signal.

Some signs require NMs in order to be produced correctly. For example, the signs LATE and NOT-YET both have the same handshape, movement, location, and palm orientation. But, they have a different non-manual marker.

Related posts

Related posts: mouth morphemes.

Phonology: NMS parameter.

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