Posted by: learnsignlanguage | April 28, 2010

BSL and spacial grammar

Spatial grammar in Sign Language

Sign languages exploit the unique features of the visual medium. Oral language is linear. Only one sound can be made or received at a time. Sign language, on the other hand, is visual; hence a whole scene can be taken in at once. Information can be loaded into several channels and expressed simultaneously.

As an illustration, in English one could utter the phrase, “I drove here”. To add information about the drive, one would have to make a longer phrase or even add a second, such as, “I drove here along a winding road,” or “I drove here. It was a nice drive.” However, in British Sign Language, information about the shape of the road or the pleasing nature of the drive can be conveyed simultaneously with the verb ‘drive’ by inflecting the motion of the hand, or by taking advantage of non-manual signals such as body posture and facial expression, at the same time that the verb ‘drive’ is being signed.

Therefore, whereas in English the phrase “I drove here and it was very pleasant” is longer than “I drove here”, in British Sign Language the two may be the same length.


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