Cinematic Vocabulary

Cinematic vocabulary, also known as "visual vernacular" identified by Bernard Bragg, is not only unique to motion images; visual-manual language is also noted for its cinematic capabilities. In integration with syntactic elements, visual-manual language employs cinematic techniques in four-dimensional environment.

Cinematic devices, such as cuts, angles, and zooms, are commonly and richly used in Ameslan storytelling and poetry. Just as imagery is used in English poetry and novels, visual-manual language takes the opportunity of manipulating imagery in four-dimensional space-time.

Oliver Sacks compares speech as "narrative structure" to sign as "cinematic structure." The illustration by comic book artist Scott McCloud below is an approximate analogy of what perceiving is like in visual-manual storytelling. In this illustration, it is like mentally watching a combination of imaginary fragmented pieces of motion picture and audio (signing text).

comic language
Image source: Scott McLeod, Understanding Comics.

Sign language is not iconic nor what is stereotypically thought. Like speech language, it has its continuum of abstract and onomatopoeia. For example, both visual-manual and vocal-auditory speakers talk in prose which is generally abstract. On the other hand, a vocal-auditory comedian sometimes talk with some "iconic" sounds, employing the aural space, imitating the sounds, and creating the sound effects. In a similar way, a visual-manual storyteller exploits the visual-spatial sphere in creating visual onomatopeoia.

storytelling in sign language.