17 Marking Time in BSL

English Notes
BSL Video

Marking Time in BSL

Time Reference

BSL does not describe time in the same way as English. BSL expresses time metaphorically, through the movement of individual signs within particular areas of the signing space. For example, the area in front of the signer’s dominant shoulder (or cheek) is used metaphorically to refer to what lies ahead of the signer; ie, the future. The area behind and at the signer’s shoulder represents the past. The sign NOW is made immediately in front of the signer. Movements are also metaphorically determined, so that moving the hands forwards implies time in the future, while moving the hands backwards implies time in the past.

BSL expresses general concepts of time in these ways, for example, NOW, IN THE FUTURE, IN THE PAST, WAY IN THE FUTURE, WAY IN THE PAST, or RECENTLY IN THE PAST. Points in time which are more specific are referred to by the use of particular signs and phrases, such as: TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, SOON, RECENTLY, and JANUARY 26th 1847. (Note; some of these signs have regional variations).

Some languages use tenses to refer to events located in time. As well as past and future tense, some languages have tenses indicating distant past and distant future too. BSL expresses these concepts through the use of movement within metaphorical space.


17.1 Time Lines

17.2 Line D


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