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Nose-pointing: Notes on a facial gesture of Papua New Guinea

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This article describes a previously undocumented deictic facial gesture of Papua New Guinea, which we call nose-pointing. Based on a video corpus of examples produced by speakers of Yupno, an indigenous language of Papua New Guinea’s Finisterre Range, we characterize the gesture’s morphology — which involves an effortful scrunching together of the face, or S-action, in combination with a deictic head movement — and illustrate its use in different interactive contexts. Yupno speakers produce the nose-pointing gesture in alternation with more familiar pointing morphologies, such as index finger and head-pointing, suggesting that the gesture carries a distinctive meaning. Interestingly, the facial morphological component of nose-pointing — the S-action — is also widely used non-deictically by Yupno speakers, and we propose that such uses provide crucial clues to the meaning of nose-pointing. We conclude by highlighting questions for further research, including precisely how nose-pointing relates to non-deictic uses of the S-action and what cultural and communicative pressures might have shaped the gesture.
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Keywords: Papua New Guinea; Yupno; facial expression; nose-pointing; pointing gestures

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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