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NZSL Sign Conventions
NZSL uses signs as the means to communicate. Five elements make up each sign. They are:
- palm orientation
- non-manual signals
Non-manual signals include various kinds of facial expression and movements of different parts of the body. When combined in different ways, they create the capacity for NZSL to express any meaning imaginable, which is an important facility of any language.
Just as vocal intonation is vital in spoken languages to clarify meanings related to grammar and intensity, facial expressions serve this function in NZSL and are often referred to as "facial grammar". It is important for signers to see each other’s faces and hands clearly in order to make sense of what is being conveyed.
Deaf people are sensitive to “visual noise” just as hearing people are sensitive to loud auditory noise. Brightly coloured and patterned clothing, as well as dangling jewellery close to the face, can distract people’s eyes when they are conversing in NZSL.