9.6 Handshapes

English Notes
BSL Video


Fingerspelling breaks the basic rules of BSL, mainly because natural signs rarely use more than two handshapes, whereas a fingerspelled sign may be made up of several different handshapes (representing each letter of the word). In order to be more like BSL, loan fingerspellings are usually abbreviated to two (or three) letters. Patterns of abbreviation vary, but common processes in BSL include:

First and last letters (e.g. b-l from Bristol), 

First and second letters (e.g. a-b from Aberdeen or p-r from Preston) 

First letters from each morpheme (or perceived morpheme) of the loan word (e.g. m-c from Manchester).


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