Tutorial 5: The Body

We’ve seen how to write parts of the head and parts of the hand, and how we can write an Interaction by writing a hand part followed by the head part that it touches (or just comes near). Now we’re going to learn the letters we use for the parts of the body. These are used just like the head parts: we write one after a hand part to say which part of the body it touches.As you see, there aren’t that many to learn. As for the head and face, we don’t worry which side of the body these are on, except for the shoulders, for which we use the letters i and j. The above diagram shows i and j for right-handed signing. If you sign left-handedly, the i and j will need to be switched round, as for the i and j of the direction letters. Whether you’re left-handed or right-handed, the i refers to this shoulder (the one on the side of the body nearest the active hand) and the j refers to that shoulder (the one on the opposite side of the body from the active hand).

Most signs are made on the front of the upper body, but there are three others not shown in the diagram: the side of the body, the front of the thigh, and the lower leg. The full list is:

g lower leg
i this shoulder (usually the front of the shoulder)
j that shoulder (usually the front of the shoulder)
o chest
p upper arm
q forearm
r side of body (hip)
v neck
x back
y front of thigh

I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel that this is not enough: where is the stomach, for example? Later we’ll learn simple ways of extending the number of surfaces we can write, and everything will be covered.

Now you can write signs in which the hand meets with parts of the body, for example:

ado MINE (fist, palm near chest);
bdor LIKE (flat hand, palm taps chest).

I need to clarify a few points about these. Notice how in ado, the palm is facing the chest but can’t physically touch it. This doesn’t stop us from writing it and being able to read the meaning clearly. In Hippotext, we write the hand part which it would be if the hand were the flat hand, just as we do for hand configurations.

Many signers will sign bdor using the spread hand, rather than the flat hand (b). Signing is usually performed in a relaxed manner, so that the hand may be held relaxed with the fingers not firmly together. Where a sign is seen to be variously signed with the flat or spread hand, we prefer to write the flat hand (b).

Can you read the following signs: btj, nbliu? If you don’t know BSL, try to write out descriptions of how the signs are executed.

— Sandy Fleming

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *