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Non-verbal aspects of Huh?

Posted by harmonicajim on 09 Nov 2013 at 06:36 GMT

An unusual and insightful study. What are the non-verbal aspects of the OIR interjection? The brief mention of Argentine Sign language using the raised eyebrows immediately makes one think of the facial expressions so closely watched by speakers while they try to keep the conversation on track. Are they as universal as the articulations? Most interesting research.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Non-verbal aspects of Huh?

markding replied to harmonicajim on 09 Nov 2013 at 10:38 GMT

Yes, this is exactly why we collected video recordings — language is after all most at home in face to face encounters, with verbal as well as non-verbal aspects playing important roles. We have been tracking the non-verbal aspects closely in the larger project on misunderstandings and conversational repairs. In all of the languages, we found similar facial expressions like frowning, raising the eyebrows,and squinting as well as movements like leaning forward.

These visible behaviours are widespread, though perhaps not universally conventionalised in quite the same way as the word 'huh?'. For instance, they do not obligatorily co-occur with the word — we find them often, but not always.

It is clear, though, that sign languages can build on the semiotics of the visible displays of trouble and not-knowing that we see in spoken languages. And in sign languages (at least in the one investigated by Manrique, cited in our study) these visible behaviours do of course become conventionalised signs.

No competing interests declared.