8.9 Technology and changes in BSL

English Notes
BSL Video

Technology and changes in BSL

Another reason for age differences in BSL is change in technology. We know that many signs in BSL reflect some aspect of the appearance of items, or the way they are used. As technology has changed, so have signs changed, to show the new appearances or means of using or handling new appliances. The BSL sign TELEPHONE has changed over time as the telephone has gone from an appliance held in both hands, to one held in one hand, to one that is held in the palm of the hand, rather than being gripped. Similar changes may be seen in signs such as TRAIN, CAMERA and WATCH (the time piece) where technology has changed greatly over the last 70 or 80 years. This same pattern is seen in other sign languages, as well as BSL. When computers first entered everyday conversation, the sign reflected the spinning spools of the magnetic tapes then used. Now that computers have become common in most office environments, in the form of word-processors or data- processing machines, the sign has changed to focus upon the keyboard.

Old signs also die out. Some signs have changed, even though the concepts remain. In the past, the signs BEFORE and NOW (or TODAY) were different from the ones we use now. Signs have also changed to become more visually or socially appropriate for BSL. The sign used for HEARING-PERSON is now less linked to the idea that it is good to be a hearing person. TEA-BREAK no longer refers to the idea of BREAK as in SNAP and now uses the sign that means REST. WORKSHOP meaning a group discussion has developed its own separate sign from the old sign which was more appropriate for a wood-working workshop. 

Political correctness can also cause changes so that the signs IRELAND , BLACK (of race) and CHINA have now changed in attempt not to offend people.

Some signs have moved from the face to neutral space. An example is FISH. For some signers, the meanings have separated so that the sign FISH on the face is for a fish to eat and the sign in neutral space is a living fish. For other signers, FISH on the face is the noun, and FISH in neutral space is the verb FISH-SWIMMING.


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