Posted by: learnsignlanguage | October 4, 2010

Simple grammar explanation of British Sign Language

When students initially decide to learn sign language sometimes a common error is thinking that British Sign Language (BSL) follows on the same grammatical and sentence structure of English.

When they are then faced by sentences such as “name you what?”, “live you where?” there is some confusion.

I remember thinking the exact same thing when I started to learn sign language over 18 years ago..surely if the sentence is “what is your name?” or “where do you live?” why don’t you sign exactly that!

British Sign Language uses a grammatical structure commonly described as a Topic Comment Structure. This basically means that the topic is stated first and then a comment about that topic is stated and explained afterwards- similiar to a lot of foreign spoken languages.

So far example when asking what your name is in BSL the sign “Name” comes first then the possessive of who that name belongs to (ie “Your”) and then a comment about it afterwards “What” is signed.

When question forms are signed you will often find them signed at the end of the sentence to enhance what you have said at the beginning.

As you practice BSL you will see this happening again and again and so after a while it becomes more natural.

There are many grammar rules in BSL of which this is only a tip off the iceberg….

For people who have ordered the British Sign Language Level 2 with Learn Sign Language Ltd there is a downloadable workbook that goes through in detail 5 different grammar rules of BSL

Happy signing!


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