Nonmanual markers consist of the various facial expressions, head tilting,
shoulder raising, mouthing, and similar signals that we add to our hand
signs to create meaning.
The sign for nonmanual markers is to fingerspell "NMM."
Examples of nonmanual markers:
1. Slightly opening the mouth and placing the tongue over the
bottom teeth so that it touches the lower lip. This nonmanual marker
is used with the sign, "NOT-YET."
2. Bringing your cheek and your shoulder closer together while tightening
the muscles in your cheek (as if you were smiling with half your face).
This is often abbreviated as "c-s" meaning "cheek to
shoulder." This nonmanual marker is used with signs like,
"RECENT" and "THERE" to mean, "very recent"
and "right there (close)."
Speakers of English tend to inflect their voices to indicate they are
asking a question. Signers of ASL also inflect their questions, but instead
of using voice inflection they use non-manual markers. For example:
YES/NO Question Expression:
When signing a question that can be answered "yes or no" you
raise your eyebrows and tilt your head forward a bit.
"WH-Q" Question Expression:
When signing a question involving "who, what, when, where, how, how
much, how many, which, or why" you use what is called a "wh"
question facial expression. The "wh" facial expression
"furrows" the eyebrows a bit and may tilt the head back a
bit--while the body might lean forward a bit.
Here are some examples of "wh" question expression:
Also see: Nonmanual
In a message dated 7/10/2005 6:15:27 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
Dear Bill Vicars:
I used your website to help deaf friends with vocabulary. I am
an ASL/Deaf Studies Specialist. I also do computer graphics.
I need to know where non-manuals came from? Who gave that idea
as a developments. Are there any resources on history of
Thank you, smile
Nonmanual Markers developed naturally as part of the language in the
same way they did with spoken English. For example, "Why do you nod
your head to mean yes and shake it to mean no?" It just started
happening that way over time. It could have gone the other
way: Bulgarians shake their head to mean yes and nod their head to
If you wish to study "nonmanual markers" in more depth you will
likely find more resources by first researching "facial
expressions," and "gestures."
Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is
GET IT HERE!
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