Eyebrow position in grammatical and emotional expressions in Kazakh-Russian Sign Language: A quantitative study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Facial expressions in sign languages are used to express grammatical functions, such as question marking, but can also be used to express emotions (either the signer’s own or in constructed action contexts). Emotions and grammatical functions can utilize the same articulators, and the combinations can be congruent or incongruent. For instance, surprise and polar questions can be marked by raised eyebrows, while anger is usually marked by lowered eyebrows. We investigated what happens when different emotions (neutral/surprise/anger) are combined with different sentence types (statement/polar question/wh-question) in Kazakh-Russian Sign Language (KRSL), replicating studies previously made for other sign languages. We asked 9 native signers (5 deaf, 4 hearing children of deaf adults) to sign 10 simple sentences in 9 conditions (3 emotions * 3 sentence types). We used OpenPose software to track eyebrow position in the video recordings. We found that emotions and sentence types influence eyebrow position in KRSL: eyebrows are raised for polar questions and surprise, and lowered for anger. There are also some interactions between the two factors, as well as some differences between hearing and deaf native signers, namely a smaller effect of polar questions for the deaf group, and a different interaction between emotions and wh-question marking in the two groups. We thus find evidence for the complex influences on non-manual behavior in signers of sign languages, and showcase a quantitative approach to this field.