Polite appearances: How non-manual features convey politeness in British Sign Language
Mapson, R. (2014) Polite appearances: How non-manual features convey politeness in British Sign Language, Journal of Politeness Research, vol. 10, , pp. 157-184,
This paper explores how non-manual features are key to conveying linguistic politeness in British Sign Language (BSL). Data were collected through five semi-structured interviews incorporating the elicitation of two speech acts commonly associated with research on linguistic politeness: requests and apologies. The data from this exploratory study suggest that nonmanual features (including specific mouth gestures and movements of the head and upper body) are more crucial for linguistic politeness than manual signs. The data indicate a degree of commonality between the features used for politeness in BSL and those previously identified in American Sign Language (Roush 1999; Hoza 2001, 2007). While non-manual features convey both linguistic and paralinguistic meaning in signed language (Sandler and Lillo-Martin 2006), their use in politeness highlights the complexity of the interaction between these two functions and illuminates an aspect of politeness frequently overlooked in much research: the use of intonation. Analysis of the use of nonmanual features for politeness also problematizes the categorization of politeness strategies using existing frameworks developed on spoken languages, such as the internal modifications outlined by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989).