Aurora Martinez del Rio, Linguistics

Nonmanual clash of the lower face nonmanuals in American Sign Language

In American Sign Language, different configurations of the face, called nonmanuals, are used for grammatical purposes. Some of these are used to modify signs articulated with the hands. Others are obligatory parts of signs, which would be incomplete without them. While it appears impossible to articulate these at the same time, there are situations in which signers might need to do this. I examined this conflict in a pilot study, where, to avoid the conflict, the signer moved one nonmanual onto the adjacent sign to make room for the other. This movement has never been seen before in sign languages and has parallels in the movement of tone seen in some of the world’s spoken, tone languages.