1 Introduction to BSL and the Deaf Commu

English Notes
BSL Video

Introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) and the Deaf Community

BSL is a visual-gestural language (or visually motivated language)

In BSL, meaning is conveyed through shapes and movements of the hands, arms, eyes, face, head and body, which are formed and combined in such a way as to be easily received and understood through the eyes. So, BSL is visual.

Movements of the body that are made for direct or indirect communication are called gestures. The signs of BSL are also gestural.

However, not all gestures can be called signs. Gestures are often vague, but the shapes, movements and meanings of signs are definite. Unlike gestures, signs can be linked together in different ways; signs can handle abstract ideas and can provide precise information. Through research, BSL has been recognised as a complex language governed by rules similar to those of spoken languages.

The Deaf community in Great Britain is made up of people who share a common language and common experiences. These serve to bind them together and give them a group identity. At the heart of any community is the language which carries the thought, memories and hopes of the members. The creative use of BSL is central to the traditions and art forms of the Deaf community (e.g. story-telling, BSL poetry etc), which have survived despite attempts to suppress the language.


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