Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why Terps are so Expressive

Face and body movement is such an integral part American Sign Language grammar that effective ASL interpreters become very physically expressive when they are interpeting. Movements of the head and eyebrows can indicate various sentence structures and subtleties of meaning. Facial expressions can indicate shades of meaning that verbs alone cannot convey. In sign language, mouth and eye movements can serve as modifiers - adverbs and adjectives. A straight faced interpreter is only offering half the message. Of course, some facial expressions in sign languages are just facial expressions. But what may seem like excessive body language to the uninformed is really necessary in ASL in order to parrellel the nuanced information conveyed through voice inflections among the hearing. They pick up cues through the speaker's tone of voice. ASL users look to facial and body expressions for the same thing. This grammatical aspect of ASL can relay as much information as the signs themselves.