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university of Stockholm
WORD FORMATION IN
BRITISH SIGN LANGUAGE

A k a d e m i s k avhandling
s o m fr avlggande a v filosofie doktorsexamen vid
S t o c k h o l m s universitet,
o f f e n t l i g e n frsvaras i H r s a l 4 , H u s B , Frescati
L r d a g e n d e n 2 2 s e p t e m b e r 1990 k l . 10.00

av

M a r y Brennan
B.A.

Institutionen fr lingvistik Stockholm 1990


106 9 1 S t o c k h o l m I S B N 91-7146-841-2

Abstract

This study explores the interlocking strands of productive morphology in


British Sign Language (BSL), the language used by the Deaf Community in
Britain. It examines how users of the language, 'signers', are able to create
'new* lexical items on a regular everyday basis. While these novel forms are
part of the everyday 'currency' of BSL interchange, some will be 'one-off
usages, while others will become established within the lexicon' of BSL.
In order to account for this rich morphological productivity, this study will
examine some key elements within BSL morphology. Special attention will
be given to the 'motivated' relationships which operate between certain sub-
lexical components and their meanings. Special attention will be given to the
role of 'metaphor' which is seen as providing a triggering' role in the creation
of new lexical items. This account will also focus on the importance of 'clas
sifiers' in productive morphology and will suggest that, for the most part,
these also express metaphorical relationships.
In the final chapters, the study will examine the operation of traditional
derivational processes such as affixation and compounding. It will be sug
gested that two processes, sequential compounding and simultaneous com
pounding play a key part in developing new forms. Other processes such as
word-class derivation (eg, NOUN > VERB) and 'aspectual' derivation will
also be illustrated.
This study aims to demonstrate that BSL has a rich morphology capable of
producing 'new" forms in a regular and rule-governed way.
mary brennan
word formatlon in BSL

university of Stockholm, 1990


first published in 1990
by the University of Stockholm
printed in Sweden

graphic design and cover by


Ernst Thoutenhoofd

signers:
Frances Elton
Clark Denmark
Martin Colville
Fiona Cairns
Andrew Thompson

drawings:
Ernst Thoutenhoofd
Linda Herd
Martin Connell
Fiona Scott
Colin Stewart

photographs:
Derek Hudspeth

all rights reserved


Mary Brennan, 1990

This book is sold subject t o the condition that it


shall not, by way of trade o r otherwise, b e lent,
resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without
the publisher's prior consent in any form of
binding o r cover other than in which it is pub
lished and without a similar condition including
this condition being imposed o n the subsequent
purchaser.

isbn 9 1 - 7146 - 841- 2


To me auntie Winnie
[expected response: "eemaryuwantyahammaz"]
contents

I abstract the H and c classifiers


prototype and inanimacy
5 chapter 1 introduction to word formation interpreting classifiers
the database the function of classifiers
creating new B S L words flexible classifcation
implications for word formation
II chapter 2 form - meaning relationships classifier table
iconicity
metaphor 95 c h a p t e r 4 prototypical metaphors in BSL
metaphor in british sign language formational expression of metaphors
the boyes-braem model the EMANATE / EMIT set of metaphors
the derivational model creative uses of the EMANATE morpheme
levels of abstraction relating to the 5 handshape the GRASP set of metaphors
associated form-meaning relationships GIVE UP

symbolic dominance the COPY / ABSORB set of metaphors


summary of form-meaning relationships in BSL the DROWN, MELT, DISAPPEAR, siJCK set of metaphors
the POSITIONAL sets of metaphors
37 chapter 3 classifiers in BSL expression of spatial relationships in BSL
first principles the STATUS set of metaphors
variable data the SEPARATE and TOGETHER sets of metaphors
classifiers in spoken language the OPPOSITION set of metaphors
key points concerning sign language classifiers the INTERACTION set of metaphors
handshape a s classifier the DEFINITE versus INDEFINITE set of metaphors
non-arbitrary classifiers productive role of metaphor
specific analysis of classifiers within sign languages metaphor table
mcdonald
suppala 135 c h a p t e r 5 word formation in BSL
liddell and johnson affixation
descriptive classifiers or sasses compounding
handling classifiers in BSL restrictions on the form of compounds
the vehicle classifier motivated forms within classifier compounds
the c classifiers simultaneous compounds
the v classifiers predictable changes in simultaneous compounds
the s classifiers classifier compounds: TOSS & T U R N type
the s classifiers classifier compounds: J U M P DOWN MY THROAT
type
classifier compounds: EVIDENCE types
simultaneous metaphor compounds?
produvtivity of compounding
conversion
lexical extension
mix 'n match: complex signs in BSL

171 chapter 6 productive morphology


the status of the morpheme
simultaneous compounds
simultaneous patterning
sequential combinations: compounds or blends?
compound creation and historical changes
relationships between signs
frozen, established and produtive lexicon
attetsed f o r m s
dictionaries and written sources
conclusion

187 appendix transcription system of BSL


summary of handshapes
summary of symbols
terms
formulae
notes
hand arrangement
contact
circular movement

193 references

199 index o f glosses

203 index of names


acknowledgement
1 Many thanks:
to Inger Ahlgren - for encouraging the idea that this work could be undertaken
in Stockholm, for providing ongoing support and for allowing me to re-define
the notion of 'deadline';
to the Linguistics Department at the University of Stockholm - for providing
such a superb context for this work - and to sten Dahl, Brita Bergman and Inger
Ahlgren for engaging in challenging and (sort of) enjoyable discussions;
to the many Deaf people, especially in Scotland, who have allowed me to use
examples of their BSL and who have been so generous with their time and
knowledge;
to former members and associates of the Edinburgh BSL Project, Moray
House College of Education, Edinburgh including Gerry Hughes, Lilian Lawson,
Martin Colville, Maureen Denmark, Clark Denmark, Liz Scott Gibson and Clive
Mason: the work of the project continues to provide a solid basis for ongoing
work on the language;
to Martin Colville - for letting me pinch his original notion of simultaneous
compounds, for providing me with lots of ideas and examples and for many
years of positive collaboration;
to my colleagues here at the University of Durham - for their good-humoured
support and for showing such remarkable restraint in the face of rampant chaos.

K Many thanks to those actually involved in the production:


Ruth Simpson, who typed numerous early drafts and who had to deal with the
full horror of my handwriting; Aileen Dobbie, at fifteen the youngest typist to
meet the challenge, and Mireille Langenbach, who tackled not only transcrip
tions and text, but did Stirling work on the index;
Frances Elton and Clark Denmark, who recently undertook the unrewarding
task of posing for numerous photographs and Gerry Hughes, Martin Colville,
Fiona Cairns and Andrew Thompson who did the same for the drawings;
Linda Herd, Martin Connell, Fiona Scott and Colin Stewart, who all contrib
uted drawings, sometimes at short notice, for one of the many deadlines;
Nan Anthony, who did such an excellent job of the proof-reading that her
'marginal asides' were worked into the text;
Ernst Thoutenhoofd, who worked over-overtime (yes, that is what I mean) in
designing the layout, manipulating the computer, being creative with arrows and
photographs, producing instant drawings etc. etc. ...and all this in between
making the coffee, supplying the background music and seeking, somewhat
vainly, to bring order out of the chaos.
My warmest thanks to all of the above.
r
abstract
This study explores the interlocking strands of productive morphology in
British Sign Language (BSL), the language used b y the Deaf Community in
Britain. It examines how users of the language, signers, are able to exploit
the processes of word-formation to create new lexical items on a regular eve
ryday basis. While these novel f o r m s are part of the everyday currency of
BSL interchange, some will b e one-off usages, while others will become es
tablished within the lexicon of BSL.

In order to account for this rich morphological productivity, this study


will examine some key elements within BSL morphology. Special attention
will b e given to the motivated relationships which operate between certain
sub-lexical components and their meanings. Attention will also b e given to
the role of metaphor which is seen as providing a triggering role in the
creation of new lexical items. This account will also focus on the importance
of classifiers in productive morphology.
In the final chapters, the study will examine the operation of traditionally
recognised derivational processes such a s affixation and compounding. It
will b e suggested that two processes, sequential compounding and simulta
neous compounding play a key part in developing new forms. Other
processes such as word-class derivation (eg, noun > verb) and aspectual
derivation will also b e illustrated. Complex signs, involving several differ
ent meaninful components assembled together in appropriate combinations,
also play a major role in providing the productive resources of the language.
This study aims to demonstrate that BSL has a rich morphology capable
of producing new forms in a regular and rule-governed way.
chapter i
introduction t o
word formation
"....the list of words which a speaker has at his command at a given moment
is not closed. The speaker always has the capacity to make up new words
which he then adds to his repertoire. It thus remains the task of morphology
to tell us what sorts of new words a speaker can form."
Aronoff, 1976, p i 9

6 f 1.0 the database


7 11.1 creating new BSL words
This study is concerned with the various ways in which users of the visual-
gestural language, British Sign Language (BSL), can create new words.
BSL is used by approximately 50,000 individuals in England, Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland. These individuals are primarily Deaf 1 , je,
1 Within this account, the convention of using i _ . t i . t _ i _ N r j i _ - i t _ t
physically they have a (usually) profound hearing loss, bL u t they also partici-
a capital D in ' D e a f f o r members of the Deaf
community will be followed, (see Padden, P a t ei n a
recognisable cultural grouping known a s the Deaf community. Less
1980) obviously, perhaps, hearing people, especially those who have acquired BSL
within their immediate family and through Deaf parents and/or Deaf brothers
and sisters, may also be active participants within the Deaf community and
also fluent BSL users.

T h e database 1.01 |
This study makes use of a considerable body of data collected mainly from
Deaf members of the Deaf community. This includes material collected
during the period of the Edinburgh British Sign Language Project (1979-
1984), some of which is publicly available (Edinburgh BSL Project, 1983a,
1983b). This data mainly consists of video recordings of individuals, pairs
and groups engaging in a range of linguistic interaction. T h e original video
recordings consisted primarily of pairs of Deaf people discussing particular
topic areas. These were specifically chosen as being likely to stimulate keen
discussion and anecdotal input. Examples included 'deaf education* and
'deaf clubs'. Participants were also shown stimulus film material, including
scenes from the second world war, which again encouraged anecdotal re
sponses from older people. Film footage on the Northern Ireland conflict
encouraged more politically-oriented discussion. T h e group used for this
filming were all Deaf adults (between the ages of 18 and 81) who themselves
were born to Deaf parents (and could thus be seen as 'native' signers in the
strict sense), (see Brennan, 1987).

T h e researchers also made use of specific elicitation techniques in the


collection of some data. For example, particular pieces of film which were
thought likely to elicit classifier usage were played to one member of a pair.
This person then had to describe the incident as fully a s possible to his/her
partner. Examples used included a motor racing grand prix and a competi
tion of the I t ' s a K n o c k o u t variety involving horses, ponies, and riders being
asked to carry out tasks involving, among other things, milk bottles and
cardboard cows! This original material was supplemented over the years by
both studio filming and relatively informal sessions during research week
ends and the like. Participants later included Deaf people whose parents
were not deaf. Video recordings were made of children's stories, including
some based on written English stories and picture books, as well as some of
the signers' own favourite stories told directly in BSL. Other video material
includ es g r o u p discussion of serious issues and s o m e very free-wheeling,
totally uninhibited joke-telling sessions!
I h a v e r e v i e w e d a considerable amount of this material in developing this
account. H o w e v e r , a s m o s t of t h e original participants w e r e Scottish or
based in Scotland, I h a v e a l s o v i e w e d videotapes of signers f r o m d i f f e r e n t
p a r t s of E n g l a n d a n d W a l e s . I h a v e a l s o watched t h e regular television series
which i n c l u d e B S L usage: S e e H e a r o n B B C a n d L i s t e n i n g E y e on Channel
4 , a s well a s special television productions such a s B S L translations of the
' Q u e e n ' s S p e e c h ' o n C h r i s t m a s Day a n d B S L translations of the ' B u d g e t
S p e e c h ' b y t h e Chancellor of t h e Exchequer.

Additionally, I h a v e m a d e use of s o m e interpreted material f r o m English


i n t o B S L . T h i s i s principally material f r o m colleagues w h o a r e not only
highly r e g a r d e d exponents of interpreting, but a r e themselves native BSL
users. H o w e v e r , b e c a u s e such d a t a is d i f f e r e n t in kind f r o m other material,
I m a k e explicit r e f e r e n c e t o t h e source of e x a m p l e s if these a r e taken
exclusively f r o m interpretation.
A s well a s t h e a b o v e , I h a v e a l s o noted relevant examples in the everyday
exchan ges a m o n g m y Deaf f r i e n d s and colleagues: these have o f t e n encour
a g e d m e t o l o o k f o r s p e c i f i c types of e x a m p l e s within t h e video material a n d ,
of course, t h e r e v e r s e process h a s a l s o occurred.

f 1.02 Creating new B S L w o r d s


T h e overall i m p a c t of r e v i e w i n g such a range of material h a s been not only
t o r e i n f o r c e m y recognition of t h e i m m e n s e productive p o w e r inherent
within B S L m o r p h o l o g y , but t o reveal m o r e clearly t h e complex interplay of
d i f f e r e n t t y p e s of morphological patterning. O f course, it is not surprising
that B S L mo rp hology is f o u n d t o b e highly productive: although, a s w e shall
see, t h e notion of productivity is n o t a particularly simple o n e within the
morphological literature. A s B a u e r (1988, p 130) points out, s o m e linguists
have a s s u m e d that mo rp hology is used productively relatively infrequently;
e g , J a c k e n d o f f c l a i m s that:

"...the normal mode for syntactic rules is creative, the normal mode for
lexical rules is passive."
Jackendoff, 1975, p667

T h e r e i s a g e n e r a l tendency, probably both a m o n g linguists a n d non-linguists


alike, t o a s s u m e that while syntax allows us to create sentences w e have
n e v e r seen o r heard b e f o r e , b u t which a r e nevertheless understood, the words
that m a k e u p t h o s e sentences will b e relatively stable entities. Of c o u r s e , w e
k n o w that n e w w o r d s c o m e i n t o the language f r o m time to time, but w e rarely
think of ourselves as constantly creating new forms.
Bauer (1988) quotes some fascinating data from several languages, which
shows j u s t how much lexical creation is actually going on. One German
study showed that of 1,331 compound nouns collected from the German
weekly Die Zeit, only 37.9% were listed in dictionaries - 62.1% could be
seen as neologisms. (Thiel, 1973, quoted in Bauer, 1988, p 131 ). Similarly,
Karlsson and Koskenniemi (1985) report that although Finnish has nominal
paradigms with 150 members and verbal paradigms with 850 members, any
single user of the language is likely to use only a tiny handful with respect
of any particular noun or verb (see Bauer, 1988, p 132). As Bauer points out,
the productivity of various types of affix:

"...is striking enough in English, but even more striking in a language like
Eskimo where derivational affixes abound and the chance of a speaker
having heard or used a particular derivative in his or her previous experi
ence becomes vanishingly low."
B a u e r , 1988, p i 3 1

In looking at BSL morphology, we are interested in a number of questions:


Is the signer likely to construct sentences from existing, unanalysable
1 Throughout this account the term sign will signs 1 , available within the lexicon?
be used as equivalent t o word in spoken
If not all signs are already in existence what means does the signer have to
language. If ' s i g n ' is used in a m o r e directly
construct new forms?
Saussurean sense, this will b e made explicit
and single quotation marks will be Is the signer able to construct new forms which then become part of the
used. established lexicon, or are such forms always created anew as needed?
In fact, these queries themselves beg a number of further questions:
What do we mean by the established lexicon?
What does it mean to say that a sign already exists?
In what sense is a form new if it has already been used by some other signer?
In the following chapters, I hope to provide at least a partial answer to some
of these questions. What I hope to show is that while it is indeed possible to
list what might be termed the dictionary forms of many signs, other signs are
created by the signer by exploiting particular categories of sign morphemes.
The two categories which will be given most direct focus are classifiers and
metaphors, although attention will also be given to the role of conventional
ised associations within specific morphemes. I will attempt to illustrate that
while certain kinds of derivational process, particularly compounding, play
a vital role in the creation of new forms, such processes can only be fully
understood by taking account of the extent to which many BSL morphemes
are not purely arbitrary, but motivated. To ignore such motivation, would be
to ignore a major type of triggering in the production of new forms.
chapter one i n t r o d u c t i o n t o word f o r m a t i o n mary brennan word formation in BSL
chapter 2
form-meaning relationships

"...arbitrariness is typical of the lexicon, which is to this extent, the reposi

tory of what is idiosyncratic and unpredictable about linguistic forms."

Anderson, 1985, p4

"Motivation is an ecological property of the conceptual system as a whole."

Lakoff, 1986, p94

13 1 2. 0 1 iconicity

19 f 2. 0 2 metaphor

21 fl 2 .03 metaphor in british sign language

23 H 2.04 the boyes-braem model

25 H 2. 0 5 the derivational model

27 U 2 .0 6 levels of abstraction relating to the 5 hand-

shape

29 f 2 .0 7 associated form-meaning relationships

32 U2 . 0 8 symbolic dominance

1(2.09 summary of form-meaning relationships in

BSL
W h i l e linguists such a s Anderson h a v e stressed t h e arbitrary nature of t h e
lexicon, they have a l s o recognised that b e s i d e s unanalysable arbitrary items,

"...other items in the lexicon, (perhaps the majority) can be seen as 'partially
motivated' in the sense that they involve (individually arbitrary) isolable
parts combined in principled ways. "
Anderson, 1985, p5

W h i l e t h e p r e s e n t study is concerned with t h e principled w a y s in which iso


lable p a r t s c a n b e c o m b i n e d t o p r o d u c e n e w signs of B S L , it will a l s o f o c u s
o n t h e non-arbitrary n a t u r e of m a n y of t he s e isolable p a r t s and of the B S L
lexicon a s a whole. In English, a s Anderson points o u t , t h e f a c t that 'ear'
d e n o t e s a n ear is completely exceptional "in t h e s e n s e that there is nothing
e l s e a b o u t t h e language f r o m which it c oul d have been predicted" (ibid, p4).
H o w e v e r , it is suggested h e r e that me a ni ng-form relationships in B S L a r e
o f t e n predictable. Indeed various k i n d s of prediction a r e pos s i bl e , linked t o
various k i n d s of patterning within t h e language. T h e s e kinds of patterning
carry over into t h e formation of n e w lexical items. M o r e o v e r , the rich
internal structure of B S L w o r d s p o s e s even greater challenges to t h e tradi
tional two-way classification of morphology into inflectional and deriva
tional than those already noted f r o m t h e study of spoken languages (see, f o r
e x a m p l e , Anderson, 1988, p l 6 8 f f , Bauer, 1988, c h . 6 a n d Bybee, 1985,
chapter f o u r ) .

Within t h e traditional a c c o u n t s of sign-formation a s represented in the


w o r k of Stokoe (1960, 1972 a n d 1978) f o r American Sign L a n g u a g e (ASL)
a n d B r e n n a n , Colville, L a w s o n and H u g h e s (1984) f o r B S L , a single sign is
m a d e u p of several arbitrary e l e m e n t s which have n o m e a n i n g in themselves.
T h u s t h e classic account o f the internal structure of a sign suggests that it is
c o m p o s e d of a specific hand configuration in a particular orientation, which
is placed in a certain location and executes a particular m o v e m e n t . Sign
m o r p h e m e s a r e thus seen t o b e directly c o m p a r a b l e to spoken m o r p h e m e s , in
that w h i l e they can b e analysed into f u r t h e r s ub-c ompone nt s , these elements
d o n o t have any meaning in themselves. (The i r m e a n i n g f u l n e s s can b e said
t o occur a s a result of their operation within m o r p h e m e s : thus t h e c h a n g e of
o n e sub-component f o r another c a n bring a b o u t a c h a n g e of meaning.)

H o w e v e r , even within t he s e traditional, structuralist a c c o u n t s of sign


f o r m s , it w a s accepted that w h i l e a closed f i s t could not b e said t o 'have
meaning', a n y m o r e than t h e sound [p] c o u l d b e said t o h a v e meaning, the
combination of arbitrary e l e m e n t s could result in sign f o r m s which did show
s o m e kind of link with their meanings. T h e nature of this link h a s been
typically discussed in t h e literature under t h e headings of "iconicity" and
"motivation" .

H 2.01 Iconicity
A s Boyes-Braem h a s noted, it is tempting b u t misleading:

"... to think of iconicity as an innate relationship between the form of a sign


and its referent, without taking into account who perceives that relation
ship."
Boyes-Braem, 1986, p69

O f t e n either s p e c i f i c real world information o r language internal information


i s required t o m a k e t h e link explicit. T h e German sign f o r the city of C o l o g n e
a [e<] 1
0 i - o x d-ox" a n d the BSL sign for the English town of Chesterfield, i Throughout this account, all BSL signs will
^?^ , . . . , . , , be transcribed using the system derived from
0 H >A , H<a a r e only iconic t o those w h o k n o w that C o l o g n e h a s a huge
Stokoe (1960) and developed f o r BSL by
cathedral with t w o veryJ tall spires
r a n d that Chesterfield h a s a church with a D Iner
Brennan et al
, , , ...... .
1980 and 1984. A summaryf of
twisted spire. M o r e o v e r , internal linguistic knowledge would b e important, the system, which includes symbols, handshape
l a b e l s a n d ma
e g , k n o w i n g t h a t t w o H h a n d s a r e o f t e n used t o express narrowness (eg, ->or c o n v e n l l o n s u s e d . c a n b e
found in appendix 1.
narrow spires, n a r r o w corridors, etc). Similarly the BSL sign P R E D I C T
Y D
S\J> V a x f A is o n l y transparent t o those w h o are familiar with the BSL
convention that f o r w a r d m o v e m e n t away f r o m the signer's body can be
associated with f u t u r e time r e f e r e n c e and that t h e V hand o f t e n represents
two-ness a s in ' t w o eyes'. Nevertheless, it will b e suggested h e r e that what
m a y a p p e a r t o b e 'dormant' iconicity may b e 'revitalised' by the signer t o
create novel f o r m s . S u c h s i g n s m a y b e simple o n e - o f f s that a r e understand
a b l e b e c a u s e of t h e latent iconicity a n d the context o r they may b e c o m e es
tablished within w h a t s o m e h a v e termed t h e 'frozen' lexicon. (Supalla, 1982;

M c D o n a l d , 1982.) Such a view accords with previous research in this area:


K l i m a a n d Bellugi, f o r e x a m p l e , c o m m e n t that:

"...iconicity in ASL is not a buried etymological legacy. Newly coined signs


are frequently based on mimetic representation of shape, action or move
ment. Moreover, iconic properties of established lexical signs are always
potentially available and are exploited by signers to add dimension and
color to their expressions."
Klima and Bellugi, 1979, p34

W h i l e agreeing with K l i m a and Bellugi, I also wish t o suggest that o u r


understanding of the links between f o r m a n d meaning in sign language has
generally b e e n t o o constrained b y t h e limitations of strictly mimetic repre
sentation a n d notions of pictorial elements. W h i l e such features a r e clearly
important, t h e y interact with other types of relationship between f o r m and
m e a n i n g , including o n e that has a c e nt ra l role within w o r d - f o r m a t i o n ,
namely visual metaphor. B e f o r e f o c u s i n g m o r e directly upon t h e notion of
metaphorical relationship, it is necessary t o probe a little m o r e deeply into
t h e c o n c e p t o f iconicity.
K e y accounts here a r e Mandel's discussion a n d categorisation of iconic
devices in A S L (Mandel, 1977), B e rgma n' s accounts of motivation in Swed
ish Sign L a n g u a g e ( S S L , 1978 a n d 1982) a n d several di s c us s i ons within t h e
B S L literature, including D e u c h a r ( 1 9 8 4 ) , Brennan e t a l (1984) a n d K y l e and
W o l l (1985).

A r e c e n t introductory text on B S L (Miles, 1988) p r o v i d e s a definition of


iconicity which i s in accord with w h a t w e might think of a s t h e m o s t usual
o r typical understanding of t h e term:

"iconic (sign): A sign that is similar to the figure, shape or action of the real
thing, eg, SCISSORS."
Miles, 1988, pl08

E l s e w h e r e in t h e s a m e text, Miles c o m m e n t s that s i g n s with an iconic o r


pictorial origin can b e m a d e in three ways:

"(i) The fingers or the whole hand outlines the object's shape.
(ii) The signer imitates grasping and handling an object, often giving
additional meanings by changing the movement.
(iii) The hand itself is the object or part of the object.
It can act as the object giving an extra meaning."
Miles, 1988, pp67-70

A m a j o r f a c t o r here is that there is a strong tendency t o f o c u s o n signs which


r e f e r t o objects. U n d e r (ii) and (iii), the s pe c i fi c e x a m p l e s d o include mean
ings which a r e concerned with actions, rather than things, but in each c a s e ,
t h e action is directly associated with an o b j e c t , eg:

MUG "Drink from a mug"


DRAWER "Open a drawer"
LIGHTER "Operate a lighter"
TEAPOT "Pour from a teapot'

DOOR "Open a door"

Miles, 1988, pp69-71

If iconicity is primarily t h o u g h t of either in pictorial o r m i m e t i c terms, then


p e r h a p s inevitably, t h e tendency is t o f o c u s primarly o n o b j e c t s , a n d actions
associated with o b j e c t s . F o r s o m e , t h e central notion would also include sign
'imitations' o f h u m a n actions, e g
SWIM 0 Btjj.*
A/
RUN 0 A>j. i A<j. *
M
CYCLE 0 a^oj. , AT>J. v
WALK QVat>VAT>X~
I w o u l d like t o suggest that b y f o c u s i n g only o n o n e category of relationships
between f o r m a n d m e a n i n g , researchers a r e ignoring a t least o n e f u r t h e r t y p e
of f o r m - m e a n i n g relationship which permeates t h e language. B e f o r e explor
ing this idea f u r t h e r , it i s worth looking m o r e carefully a t s o m e other
accounts relating t o iconicity.
K y l e a n d W o l l (1 985) extend t h e notion somewhat, b u t still f o c u s primarily
o n o b j e c t s a n d actions associated with them:

"Visual symbolism occurs in signs as presentations and depictions. Signs


often represent some features of a referent, either in terms of visual proper
ties or of an action. This can either be a 'picture' or 'icon' of the object itself
(a 'direct' image) or of a part o f , or something associated with the referent
(a 'mtonymie' image)."
Kyle and Woll, 1985, p l l 4

T h e r e i s a ten dency t o a s s u m e that referents with visual characteristics are


those which lend themselves t o iconic representation. Deuchar (1984), is
even m o r e explicit:

"It will of course be realised that iconicity is only possible in signs with
meanings that lend themselves to visual characterisation. Although visual
characterisation of concrete objects, movement and spatial relationships
may be generally easier than auditory characterisation, signs representing
abstract ideas, for example, are much less likely to be iconic."
Deuchar, 1984, p l 3

Certainly it d o e s seem t o b e t h e c a s e that the visual aspects of everyday l i f e


a r e potentially well suited t o encoding in a visual language. As Mclntire
c o m m e n t s in relation t o t h e expression of spatial relationships through
classifier co nstructions executed in space, it would actually b e puzzling if
such f o r m s w e r e n o t iconic (Mclntire, 1980, p 121 ) . Nevertheless, Deuchar
s e e m s t o imply that t h e m e a n i n g s which lend themselves to visual characteri
sation will b e m e a n i n g s which in s o m e sense f o c u s on visual characteristics
of objects. I w o u l d l i k e to suggest that if o n e takes into account t h e notion
of visual m e t a p h o r , then t h e category of m e a n i n g s will be widened consid
erably. R a t h e r than abstract ideas being outside t h e possibilities of visual
characterisation, visual metaphor allows f o r a w h o l e h o s t of such meanings
t o b e encoded in a non-arbitrary fashion.
M o r e o v e r , it is crucial that w e avoid what Boyes-Braem h a s described a s

"...a confusion between characteristics of the referent (abstract, concrete,


etc) and the relationship between the form of the sign and its referent (icon-
icity)."
Boyes-Braem, 1986, p68

Boyes-Braem goes o n t o explain this c r u c i a l distinction:

"These are two separate things. A sign, for example, may be judged to have
an iconic form, such as the sign THINK, yet its referent, "to think", is neither
highly imaginable nor concrete. On the other hand, a sign such as MAMA
has a concrete referent, yet its form in some Swiss German sign dialects is
not particularly iconic."
ibid, P 68

figure 2a
Types of sign, based on Bergman, 1982, page 8 Iconicity, then, is essentially a potentially perceivable relationship which
holds between the form of a sign and its referent. T h e r e f e r e n t itself may or
may n o t b e concrete. W h i l e in some c a s e s iconic can b e glossed a s pictorial
o r mimetic, in other c a s e s , t h e link between form and m e a n i n g requires
type of sign
recognition of d i f f e r e n t types of relationship.
A s w e h a v e seen, within sign linguistics m u c h of t h e discussion concerning
f o r m - m e a n i n g relationships has centred on the contrast be t w e e n iconicity
a n d arbitrariness. H o w e v e r , it is probably m o r e appropriate t o s e e iconicity
arbitrary
a s merely o n e of a number of types of principled relationship which may hold
motivated
between linguistic f o r m s and their meanings. L y o n s (1977) h a s suggested
that

"...the best technical term for any non-arbitrary form-meaning relationship


deictic
that can be shown to be based on some principled relationship is perhaps
iconic
Saussure's term 'motivation'
Lyons, 1977, Vol 1, pl05

T h i s is t h e general term used by Bergman in her accounts of t h e relationship


relationship-
b e t w e e n Swedish Sign L a n g u a g e words a n d their m e a n i n g s ( B e r g m a n , 1978,
reproducing
1982). Both Bergman and Deuchar (1984) m a k e r e f e r e n c e t o t h e three-fold
movement-reproducing
division of "signs" into icons, indices and s ymbol s developed b y C . S . Peirce
s h ape - rep rodu ein g
( 1 9 3 2 , 1960). Bergman g o e s on to p r o v i d e a f u r t h e r a n a l y s i s of iconic signs
into t h e f o l l o w i n g categories:
S h a p e reproducing s i g n s (eg, B A L L )
M o v e m e n t reproducing signs (eg, W A L K )
Relation r e p r o d u c i n g signs (eg, B E L O W )
B e r g m a n illustrates that even within these g r o u p s t h e r e can b e sub-catego
r i e s , especially i n respect of m o v e m e n t reproducing signs, w h e r e s h e distin
guishes the f o l l o w i n g sub-groups:

1. T h e articulation imitates a gesture, the articulator playing the part


of the hand, e g W A V E , S T O P .
2 . T h e articulation imitates o u r o w n movements a s w e handle an o b j e c t ,
t h e articulator p l a y i n g the p a r t of t h e h a n d , e g , S E W , L O C K . figure 2b
Versions of the semiotic triangle, based on
3. T h e articulation imitates t h e movements of an o b j e c t a s w e handle it, the Bergman i982 page 6
articulator p l a y i n g t h e part of this o b j e c t , e g , S C I S S O R S , C U T W I T H SCIS-
SORS. meaning (concept)

4 . T h e articulation imitates t h e m o v e m e n t s of a part of the body (other than


arbitrary lin
t h e han d), t h e articulator playing t h e role of this p a r t of the bo dy, guistic symbol
eg, WALK, BITE. (word, sign)

5. T h e articulation imitates the m o v e m e n t of an o b j e c t , the articulator


p l a y i n g t h e p a r t of this object, e g , F L Y , A E R O P L A N E .
A s w e shall s e e later, all of these categories are closely linked with the form referent

notion of classifiers: c l a s s i f y i n g m o r p h e m e s play an important r o l e within


w o r d - f o r m a t i o n pro cesses in many sign languages. Bergman's a c c o u n t in
f a c t e x t e n d s t h e notion of iconicity t o allow f o r what she terms "indirect
motivation". T h i s is b e s t explained through Bergman's own diagrams of the
mol,valed
semiotic triangle which illustrate the relationship between f o r m and r e f e r e n t
linguistic
( s e e right).
symbol
T h e introduction of t h e notion of 'base' in the last example al lows Bergman
t o describ e indirectly motivated signs such a s R E D and E L E P H A N T :

"The base has a motivated relation to the referent but the form is only
indirectly motivated by the referent via the base."
Bergman, 1982, p5

indirectly
T h u s t h e sign E L E P H A N T in SSL is b a s e iconic in that t h e base, ie, the trunk mot i V ated

of a n e l e p h a n t , m e d i a t e s t h e link between f o r m and meaning. Similarly, t h e sign


indexical sign R E D m a k e s u s e of 'lips' a s the base of the sign. The notion of
'base' a n d a l o n g with it the c o n c e p t of direct versus indirect motivation
base referent
a l l o w s f o r a considerable extension of the kinds of signs which can be
the relationship the base is motivated by
r egard ed a s motivated. for m-BASE is the referent, the form
B e r g m a n clearly demonstrates that d e Suassure's claim that linguistic iconic or deictic indirectly motivated

'signs' a r e essentially arbitrary is not applicable in the c a s e of sign languages.


L y o n s (1977) repeats this c l a i m , c o m m e n t i n g that:
"...linguists are agreed that whatever might have been the case at some
earlier stage of man's evolutionary development, in all known languages the
connexion between a word and what it stands for is, with relatively few
exceptions, arbitrary. "
Lyons, 1977, Vol 1, p.100

Discussing iconicity within writing systems, L y o n s a l s o c o m m e n t s o n the


e x t e n t t o which weaker iconicity results in greater semiotic e f f i c i e n c y :

"...so-called ideograms have become more flexible and semiotically more


efficient as the so-called ideograms have become progressively less iconic
(cf Gelb, 1963). In general, it is a relatively weak iconicity that is found in
language..."

Lyons, 1977, Vol 1, pl03

H o w e v e r , it will be argued here that iconicity, o r m o r e accurately, motiva


tion, is a source of flexibility and creativity in the language, rather than a
block t o such e f f i c i e n c y and productivity. Sign languages appear t o have
m e c h a n i s m s for exploiting motivated relationships within t h e productive
processes of the language. Certainly t h e iconicity f o u n d within BSL is f a r
f r o m weak. Rather it is a central source of creativity in t h e language.
W h i l e B e r g m a n also recognises the importance of iconicity, she neverthe
less recognises that the kind of analysis she presents doe s not account f o r all
signs which may intuitively be regarded a s 'motivated'. T h i s is a crucially
important p o i n t and it is t h e r e f o r e necessary t o quote Bergman here a t s o m e
length. S h e c o m m e n t s that

"...there are signs intuitively recognised as imitating, although with a


motivation that this typological model of sign classification fails to account
for."
Bergman, 1978, pi5

T h e S S L sign E M P L O Y is then discussed in s o m e detail:

"...the articulator seizes a person (the claw hand changes into a fist), moves
him to the left, where he is put into the palm of the left hand. The articulation
is not iconic to any actual behaviour associated with the activity of employ
ing, but it is certainly not arbitrarily chosen. The form depicts something
that may be characterised as a concrete paraphrase of the referent, which in
that case ought to be the base of the sign. But a description of the base of a
sign resorting to an inverted base, which originally has no motivated
relation to the referent, might be dangerous. With such a vague relation
between the base and the referent, any sign may eventually be classified as
motivated."
Bergman, ibid, p l 5 (emphasis added)

B e r g m a n h e r e f o c u s e s directly o n o n e of the main dilemmas fa c e d by the


analyst. W h i l e n u m e r o u s signs a r e intuitively recognised a s having s o m e
link b e t w e e n f o r m a n d m e a n i n g , there i s a tendency to a s s u m e that linguis
tically w e a r e treading o n dangerous ground if w e widen the category of
'motivated' t o o m u c h . H o w e v e r , I wish t o a r g u e that if w e f a c e u p t o the
reality of th ese intuitions, then many more signs will b e recognised a s having
s o m e perceiv able link between f o r m a n d meaning. O n e of the m a j o r w a y s in
which w e can m a k e linguistic sense of these intuitions is to draw upon the
notion of m e t a p h o r . Certainly within B S L the degree of metaphorical
structuring within the l a n g u a g e is f a r m o r e pervasive and complex than has
previously b e e n recognised. Metaphorical imagery operates within and
b e t w e e n linguistic levels resulting in a multi-layered network of relation
ships.

H 2.02 Metaphor
A n y o n e w h o a t t e m p t s to explain o r explore the notion of metaphor, either
within l a n g u a g e generally o r within a specific language, does so, o r at least,
should d o s o w i t h a considerable a m o u n t of trepidation. Here, indeed, w e a r e
treading o n very d a n g e r o u s g r o u n d .

I t will b e c l e a r , that a l m o s t a s soon a s w e begin t o talk about anything in


E n g l i s h , w e i n v o k e metaphorical imagery. A m o m e n t ago, I talked a bout
'treading o n d a n g e r o u s ground'. N o r m a l l y , w e would not think twice about
such a c o m m e n t : it i s part of o u r everyday language. If I try t o find alternative
w a y s of expressing w h a t I m e a n , I will probably call u p s o m e other image:
"entering murky waters", etc. It is certainly somewhat disconcerting to begin
a n y discussion of metaphor when o n e k n o w s that the subject has been tackled
b y t h e likes of Aristotle, C i c e r o , Horace, Quintillian and Dante! However,
this i s n o t a philosophical study, a s such. Much will b e taken for granted in
relation t o t h e u s e and understanding of the term. Nevertheless, b e f o r e
looking at sign l a n g u a g e generally, and BSL in particular, it may b e worth
m a k i n g a f e w general observations.

A s H a w k e s (1 972) has n o t e d , there seem to b e t w o fundame nt a l views


about metaphor:

"... the classical view, which sees metaphor as detachable from language; a
device that may be imported into language in order to achieve specific pre
judged effects... and the romantic view which sees metaphor as inseparable
from a language which is 'virtually metaphorical', and a 'reality' which is
ultimately the end-product of an essentially 'metaphorical' interaction be
tween words and the 'harrying of material' that they encounter daily."
Hawkes, 1972, p2

Within t h e romantic v i e w , then, m e t a p h o r is n o t simply t h e device of t h e p o e t


o r t h e ploy of the literary artist, it is the life-blood of d a i l y interaction. Of
c o u r s e , even here, it i s possi bl e t o e m p l o y m e t a p h o r in a highly innovative
w a y f o r special e f f e c t :

"Metaphor, deliberately invoked, intensifies language's characteristic ac


tivity, and involves, quite literally, the creation of 'new' reality."
ibid, P 9 2

T h i s last c o m m e n t is not, a s I understand H a w k e s , a mi s us e of t h e term


'literally'. Reality it s e e m s can only b e mediated through metaphor and t h e
c h o i c e of metaphor creates a new kind of understanding. It is this kind of
approach which leads H a w k e s t o what s o m e may see a s an e x t r e m e view:

"... in the long run the 'truth' does not matter because the only access to it is
by means of metaphor. The metaphors matter: they are the truth."
ibid, p 9 3

W h i l e such statements may seem over-dramatic, this approach is not all that
d i f f e r e n t f r o m m o r e recent, highly influential a c c o u n t s of the metaphors of
everyday l i f e . T h e best k n o w n accounts a r e probably L a k o f f a n d Johnson's
M e t a p h o r s W e Live By (1980) and the more recent L a k o f f a n d Turne r M o r e
than Cool Reason (1989). It is a f u n d a m e n t a l aspect of their accounts that
metaphor n o t only p e r v a d e s everyday language, but everyday life:

"Metaphor is a tool so ordinary that we use it unconsciously and automati


cally, with so little effort that we hardly notice it...It is conventional: meta
phor is an integral part of our everyday thought and language and it is irre
placeable..."
Lakoff and Turner, 1989, pxi

"Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act,
is fundamentally metaphorical in nature."
Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p3
L a k o f f and Johnson explain that they h a v e arrived at this view through
examining l a n g u a g e , which in turn reveals the nature of human thought
pr ocesses:

"Metaphors as linguistic expressions are possible precisely because there


are metaphors in a person's conceptual system."
ibid, p6

Such c o m m e n t s r a i s e all sorts of fundamental questions. If linguistic meta


p h o r s a r e b a s e d o n conceptual metaphors, should w e expect e v e r y o n e to have
t h e s a m e kind of internal metaphoric system? I f , a s t h e authors imply else
w h e r e , the m e t a p h o r s vary f r o m culture t o culture, is this because of lan
g u a g e , o r i s l a n g u a g e simply t h e vehicle which expresses such d i f f e r e n c e s ?
If I can b e a l l o w e d t o return to a previous metaphor, w e aren't j u s t 'treading
on dan gero us g r o u n d ' here, w e a r e 'walking into a minefield'!
T h i s study will n o t e v e n attempt t o cope with these fundamental questions.
H o w e v e r , w h a t it will d o , I h o p e , is provide a further description of metaphor
within a signed, a s opposed t o a spoken language and thereby p rovi de f u r t h e r
e v i d e n c e u p o n which to build specific theories. I d o wish to argue that
metaphor is an inherent characteristic of B S L although as H a w k e s suggests
( s e e p a g e s 19 a n d 20), the B S L signer can also deliberately invoke metaphor
t o create not o nly new e f f e c t s , but new meanings. It is hoped that the
e x a m p l e s in this c h a p t e r , a n d in chapters four, f i v e a n d six will help t o dem
onstrate the e x t e n t t o which metaphorical relationships are inherent in the
language.

f 2.03 M e t a p h o r in British Sign L a n g u a g e


L a k o f f a n d J o h n s o n p r o v i d e a very simple, clear statement on the nature of
metaphor:

"The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of


thing in terms of another."
Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p5

It m a y b e u s e f u l to illustrate o n e possible kind of linguistic metaphor by


noting that o n e o f t h e w a y s in which English organises time is to operate a s
if the f u t u r e w e r e located 'in f r o n t ' and the past 'behind'; eg:

"In the weeks ahead of us."


'That's all behind us now."
ibid, p 4 1
B S L u s e s the s a m e underlying metaphor, b u t because it is a visual-gestural-
spatial language, the m e t a p h o r is expressed m o r e directly than c oul d b e t h e
c a s e in a spoken language. Instead of having t o use additional w o r d s such a s
'in f r o n t ' , 'behind', etc, t h e direct articulation of gestures in space allows f o r
a m o r e literal presentation of t h e metaphor. (A c onc e i va bl e equivalent in
spoken l a n g u a g e would b e if t h e metaphor of 'high' and 'low' in respect of
status w e r e expressed linguistically in terms of 'high' and 'low' pitch.) In
B S L , the m o v e m e n t s of signs relating t o t h e p a s t are o f t e n produc e d s o that
t h e hand(s) move(s) behind the signer ( o r in that direction): the spatial
metaphor is spatially expressed.
L a k o f f and Johnson m a k e a particularly strong claim in respect of spatial
metaphor. T h e y a r g u e that:

"Most of our fundamental concepts are organised in terms of one or more


spatialization metaphors."
ibid, P 17

Moreover, they claim that the use of metaphor exhibits internal a n d external
systematicity, that spatialisation me t a phors a r e rooted in physical and cul
tural experience, that there are many physical and social b a s e s for metaphor
and that in some cases:

"spatialization is so essential a part of a concept that it is difficult for us to


imagine any alternative metaphor that might structure the concept."
ibid, p l 8

In a sign language, such a s B S L , spatial metaphor is actually expressed


through, i e in space. T h i s more direct realisation of spatial metaphor s e e m s
t o a c t a s a trigger, releasing the potential f o r even greater use of metaphor
within t h e language.
Several commentators have already noted t h e existence of metaphor in
B S L , b u t n o - o n e h a s suggested that it h a s the kind of central role I now
propose. Brennan et al (1980), discussing t h e notion of 'creative conflict' in
B S L , suggest that:

"While new signs may be derived from iconic and/or metaphorical bases,
such forms are modified by the particular set of handshapes in the lan
guage."

Brennan et al, 1980, pl76

T h u s there is a recognition that metaphorical creativity is in s o m e sense


contained by, o r m o r e accurately, r e f i n e d b y other linguistic processes.
H o w e v e r , n o n e of t h e m a i n texts o n BSL (Brennan e t a l , 1984; Deuchar,
1984; K y l e a n d W o l l , 1985; Brennan, 1987; Miles, 1988 etc ) e xpl ore the
notion of m e t a p h o r i n any detail. It is not discussed directly b y Deuchar,
although it i s possibly implied within her accounts of iconicity a n d sound
symb olism. Similarly, w h i l e K y l e a n d W o l l discuss t h e role of visual
imagery generally, ( p l l 3 f ) , they g i v e little e m p h a s i s to the notion of meta
p h o r a s such. T h e y d o suggest that:

"Although this visual imagery is more immediately apparent and more


f i g u r e 2c
widespread than in spoken language, the difference is likely to be of degree Model of ASL lexical levels, Boyes-Braem,

rather than kind. " 1981, p42.

Kyle and Woll, 1985, p i 13


Theory Example

T h e ev idence p r e s e n t e d below suggests that metaphorical relationships are


level 1. level 1.
a n integral p a r t of t h e structural organisation of B S L and a s such participate Underlying concept The concept of con

actively in t h e generation of new signs. Indeed, I would like t o suggest that semantic components structing an edifice
or building
t h e f a c t that visual metaphor is m o r e immediately apparent in B S L , a s
o p p o s e d say t o E n g l i s h , d o e s a f f e c t t h e working of t h e language itself. Of level 2. level 2.
c o u r s e , metap hors o p e r a t e along with, a n d in s o m e cases through, other Symbolic representa Visual metaphor of

features of t h e language. Metaphor a l o n e cannot account f o r word-formation tion level (the match flat objects being
ing of the underlying piled on top of each
in B S L , b u t a n account which ignores metaphors a s key compone nt s within
concept or semantic other
t h e system will inevitably b e inadequate. components with a
visual metaphor)

I 2.04 T h e Boyes-Braem model


level 3. level 3.
A m a j o r contribution t o the recognition of the role of metaphor within sign Morpho-phonemic Flat objects repre
l a n g u a g e lexical structure can b e f o u n d in t h e work of Penny Boyes-Braem features selected to sented by the hand-
match the underlying shape parameter spe
(Boyes-Braem, 1981). Boyes-Braem develops a theory of ASL lexical
visual metaphor cifically with the fea
structure in w h i c h , a s well a s t h e phonological, morphological a n d semantic
(matching done di tures +linear +surface
levels of structure, s h e posits an additional intermediate level which s h e rectly o r through an +/-full

c l a i m s h a s n o counterpart in m o s t spoken languages: established A S L para


digm)

"Whereas the semantic elements in spoken language are usually related level 4. level 4.
directly to patterns of morphological forms, in sign languages there seems Underlying phonemic (B) (H)
hands and possible
to be an intervening symbolic representation level."
variants resulting
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p42
from the feature selec
tion

Boyes-Braem g o e s o n t o p r e s e n t a specific model of A S L lexical levels, see


level 5. level 5.
right.
Final surface forms [B] B'] [H] [H ]
According t o this account, with allophonic sur
face form variants
(phonetic level)
"... the underlying semantic concept is matched up with a visual symbolic
representation or kind of visual metaphor."
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p43

H o w e v e r , such matching is m o d i f i e d a n d restricted by t h e particular set of


h a n d s h a p e s and m o v e m e n t s operating in t h e specific language. As Boyes-
Braem p u t s it:

"the characteristics of the finite set of primes in the sign language parame
ters 'work backwards' to restrict the kinds of visual metaphors which are al
lowable at the symbolic representation level."
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p44

Of c o u r s e , w e could a r g u e that t h e set of handshapes and m o v e m e n t s has


evolved b e c a u s e of the possibilities of expressing certain k i n d s of visual
metaphors through these sp e c i fi c primes. Nevertheless, in e xa mi ni ng B S L
f r o m a synchronic perspective, w e are a b l e to note how t h e restricted set of
p r i m e s imposes limitations on the nature of the visual me t a phor.
A s suggested in Brennan et al (1984), w e a r e dealing h e r e with 'creative
conflict' in language (see Martinet, 1960). T h e visual-gestural medium
o f f e r s tremendous potential for the direct expression of visual-spatial meta
p h o r . H o w e v e r , in o r d e r to operate e f f i c i e n t l y language exploits a limited set
of morpho-phonemic f e a t u r e s in t h e realisation of these m e t a p h o r s . T h i s
limitation i s in itself a s o u r c e of productivity in that new s i g n s typically
exploit the visual metaphors and t h e a c c o m p a n y i n g r a n g e of morpho-phone
mic realisations which a r e already available in the language.
T h r o u g h appropriate m o d i f i c a t i o n s and choices (in respect o f , f o r e x a m p l e ,
the m o v e m e n t a n d location parameters), t h e language d e v e l o p s w h a t Boyes-
Braem h a s characterised as 'lexical paradigms':

"...once a visual metaphor is selected in a language, and becomes the 'head


sign' of a language specific paradigm, it is adhered to and can become a
productive paradigm for new sign coining."
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p46

O n c e w e accept the notions of visual m e t a p h o r and lexical p a r a d i g m s within


sign language, the widely f e l t intuition that sign languages a r e iconic can
take o n a new meaning. A s well as mimetic o r pictorial signs, there a r e other
signs which a r e iconic not in the sense that they be a r s o m e visual resem
b l a n c e t o objects o r actions, b u t in that they participate in metaphorical
relationships which are mediated by the morpho-phonemic primes of the
language. T h e strong intuition that even s i g n s with highly abstract re fe re nt s
show some link between form and meaning is given support once we realise
that metaphorical relationships can operate across a wide range of meanings.

2.05 The derivational model


Boyes-Braem develops her account of metaphor within the context of a
detailed examination of a large body of 'frozen forms': ie, the entries in the
Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles (known
as DASL, Stokoe et al, 1965). The notion of a 'frozen lexicon' as opposed to
a 'productive' morphology is discussed further in chapter six. For the moment,
let us think of the frozen lexicon as consisting of forms which are already es
tablished in the language, to the extent that they have some standardised
form and can thereby be listed.
The major insight presented by the Boyes-Braem model is that signs draw
upon an underlying symbolic representation level. However, within the
model presented on page 23 there seems to be an implication that all signs
will exploit such a level. However, this would presumably deny the existence CA^"

of fully arbitrary signs in the language: signs in which there is no principled


link between form and meaning. This is certainly not the case in BSL and is
probably not the case in ASL either. It would be difficult to establish any
clear motivation for the following BSL signs:
CAN 3 <5 T A .E]
"

COULD HAVE HAPPENED 1 B-o> S^o<


2
EXIST 0A<i " '
Thus the system must have a mechanism for bypassing the symbolic level or
COULD HAVE HAPPENED
choosing a null option.
One further difference between the Boyes-Braem approach and the account
presented here is that Boyes-Braem gives a very wide interpretation of the
notion of metaphor. Here metaphorical relationships are seen as one category
of principled relationship which may hold between a sign form and its
meaning. It is a type of relationship which I would argue has been under
estimated and under-valued within the sign language literature 3 , although it
is probably not as all-encompassing as Boyes-Braem suggests. Thus while
EXISTS
accepting the notion of a symbolic representation level, I wish to argue that
other types of motivated relationships are also involved.
1 Non manual
Boyes-Braem specifies a set of lexical paradigms. For each paradigm, she - feature: closing action of the
mouth
provides a rproto-typical
r J r exemplar,
r a set of related lexical items and an 2 Non-manual
xi ,feature:
. ,
lips pushed forward
account of the morpho-phonemic features realising these meanings. While Whiie breathing out.
3
this account of BSL lexis will refer to the established lexicon, it focuses more Though see Wilbur, 1987 and 1990 for more
, , . . , , recent recognition of metaphor in ASL.
directly on so-called productive morphology. As this term is also somewhat
problematic, I shall operate for the moment on a working definition of what
I mean by productive morphology. I am here referring to a set of morphologi-
12 5 ]
cal c h o i c e s which can b e c o m b i n e d in s pe c i fi c ways a l l o w i n g :
1. signers t o p r o d u c e new f o r m s which a r e clearly c o m p r e h e n s i b l e , but which
may remain one-off forms;
2 . signers to p r o d u c e new f o r m s which are clearly c o m p r e h e n s i b l e a n d which
eventually enter into t h e established f r o z e n lexicon.
In this study, I a m interested to discover t h e kind of choices which are
available t o signers in producing o n e - o f f f o r m s and the k i n d s of processes
which allow f o r t h e lexicalisation of n e w f o r m s .
B o y e s - B r a e m ' s work encourages t h e view that in undertaking such a study
it will b e important t o c l a r i f y :
1. t h e symbolic (motivated) ba s e of signs;
2 . t h e c h o i c e of morpho-ph one mi c f e a t u r e s t o express s y m b o l i c basis;
3. the c h o i c e of derivational process which will allow a f o r m t o b e lexical-
ised.
T h e k i n d s of derivational process involved in 3 may include, f o r example,
a f f i x a t i o n , word-class derivation (eg, noun>ve rb) and c o m p o u n d i n g .
T h e kind of model which is relevant h e r e is presented in f i g u r e 2 d , on the
l e f t . Real world referents may vary in type: they may b e highly abstract o r
figure 2d f u l l y c o n c r e t e o r s o m e w h e r e inbetween. In most, although n o t all cases,
The derivational model. these real-world referents will b e marked by a visual symbolic f o r m , f o r
e x a m p l e , a metaphor. T h i s metaphor will b e expressed through a particular

real world;; c h o i c e of morpho-phonemic primes within a particular t y p e of lexical


structure, e g , single m o r p h e m e sign, c ompound form (including simultane
o u s o r sequential c o m p o u n d s ) classifier combinations and s o o n .

A n y o n e a t all familiar with productive morphology in sign languages gen


erally will b e aware that o n e of the chief m e a n s through which 'new' f o r m s
can b e created is t h e use of classifier constructions. In chapter three, I

less abstract explore in some detail j u s t w h a t w e mean b y this term, and in later chapters,

symbolic representation I discuss how classifier f o r m s relate t o metaphors.


Essentially what I will propose is that while classifiers need not b e meta
phorical, in order to carry o u t their f u n c t i o n , in BSL they a r e f o r the m o s t part

phonemic clearly so. T o this e x t e n t , they can b e seen a s f o r m s which mark out re fe re nt s

primes a s having particular physical or semantic attributes. B e c a us e they a r e primar

derivational choices ily associated with physical properties such a s s ha pe , size, extent, texture
a n d so o n , they can b e seen a s having m o s t direct application with r e f e r e n c e
t o o b j e c t s (including people). Classifiers h a v e not normally b e e n discussed

single morpheme signs with r e f e r e n c e to m o r e abstract ideas such a s 'ambition', 'rejection', 'theoris
ing', e t c . However, s o m e of the s a m e morpho-phone mi c p r i m e s m a y enter

compound*- juenal / simultaneous into classifier constructions and into s i g n s which use a visual metaphor t o
express an abstract m e a n i n g . It will only b e possible to di s c us s this f u l l y
o n c e I h a v e developed a m o r e detailed and adequate a c c o u n t of classifiers in
BSL. Nevertheless, it may b e useful to try to provide some hint of the
relationship between these different forms. T h e following discussion may
also help to explain the symbolic basis of the model presented on the
previous page.

f 2.06 Levels of abstraction relating to the 5 handshape


One way of exploring the operation of the lexical model is to examine it
within the context of a set of choices which make use of the fully open spread
handshape 5 .
At a highly concrete level, w e could establish a symbolic link whereby this
handshape is seen to b e a s a resemblance to 'several long thin things'. Thus
the concept of 'grass' which w e know is made up of thousands of blades of
grass (depending on the extent) is represented by the 5 hand with fingers
pointing upwards. Recalling Lakoff and Johnson's notion (page 21) we can
say that one set of upright long(-ish), thin(-ish) objects (blades of grass) is
represented by another set of upright long(-ish), thin(-ish) objects (fingers).
The actual sign makes use of other particular choices from within the set of
meaningful parameter choices in BSL (eg, a specific location, orientation,
movement, etc):
GRASS 78x11, 5 < A , ( V )
Similarly the sign FENCE can be seen as consisting of several long things.
Indeed there are two typical realisations. In the first:
1
FENCE 0 5>A 5<A,
the long thin things are oriented horizontally: the 'fence' is seen as consisting
of parallel lines (planks of wood, for example) mirrored by the orientation of
the hands. In a second version:
FENCE 5>At 5<A(X> )

it is the vertical elements, the so-called 'uprights' which are mirrored by the
orientation of the hands. Whether or not such differences 'matter', will
depend upon the specific context (see page 21).
It is also possible to apply a derivational process to both of the above
examples so that the two noun forms are transformed into verb forms
meaning "to put up a fence" and "to cover an area with grass".
T O FENCE 7BX x 5J.A t *
+
T O GRASS 0 5TA , 5TA
T h e precise form will vary according to other information (eg, whether the
fence is erected in rows or is a surrounding fence) but the basic derivation
will involve either an extension or repetition movement morpheme or both.
At a slightly more abstract level, the 5 hand could be used to symbolise
several people. This is a highly productive metaphor in BSL (it is typically
known as the people classifier - see Chapter 3). T w o hands can be used to
figure 2 e express MANY. Thus the verb form T O PROCESS (ie, "to walk in proces
Levels of abstraction i n r e s p e c t t o t h e 5
sion") would look like this:
handshape.
more
T O PROCESS 0 5-ox 5-oj.,C v )

and the verb T O FILE PAST like this:


THEORY S i l metaphor used in B S L and T O FILE PAST 0 5XA , 5TA, * '
LINES OF :5S: s o m e o t h e r l a n g u a g e s , e g
T h e symbolic link by which liquids are represented as if they were "collec
THOUGHT English
tions of long thin things" (sometimes known as the RIVULETS classifier or
SMELL t i l ! m e t a p h o r u s e d i n B S L and metaphor) is used primarily for liquid motions, eg, WATERFALLS, LIQ
LINES OF s o m e o t h e r sign l a n g u a g e s
UIDS BEING POURED, BLOOD FLOWING, etc. Thus the meaning of


ODOUR - n o t used i n E n g l i s h ; D
I familiar from conven-
'batter being poured into a pan' could b e expressed as: BTJ> 5TS<

t i o n a l , p i c t o r i a l ways of A somewhat more abstract metaphor is encapsulated in what we could term


jj representing o d o u r , eg i n the (sense) LINES metaphor. Here sounds, smells, vibrations, etc, are ex
ji c o m i c s a n d T V adverts
pressed as if they were lines of sound (cf, sound 'waves'), lines of odour, etc,
I
POUR 1 classifier (Mc Donald, and the 5 hand with its lines (ie, extended fingers) is the visual metaphor.
t
LIQUID i 1982) o r m e t a p h o r Thus the idea o f ' s m e l l ' o r 'odour'can be presented as: STA ie, as if
RIVULETS: I !j ( B o y e s - B r a e m , 1981) f o r LJ
the lines of smell approach the nostrils, or 5x>x 1
liquid i n m o t i o n
in which the wiggling movement suggests the presence of some odour. In
3
T O PROCESS! semantic classifier f o r CRASH C>A *// s-o<
PEO P L E 'people'in BSL, possibly (noise)
h a v i n g a p h y s i c a l basis ( i e
the sign is a compound in form, but the second part of the compound suggests
m a n y l o n g thin t h i n g s )
the vibrating lines of sound.
GRASS transparent s i z e and s h a p e A t what seems an even greater degree of abstraction, we can note the
LONG THIN c l a s s i f i e r u s e d h e r e within
abstract notion of 'thought' being expressed in terms of 'lines of thought'.
TH I N G S t h e established lexicon
Interestingly enough English actually uses the expression "line of thought".
less abstract
Again the 5 hand is used to express the LINES metaphor, but the handshape
is placed at the head location. As we shall see below (page 31) the location
itself has symbolic value in that it is directly associated with meanings to do
with cognition. T h e operation of this metaphor can be seen in the noun-verb
pair,
n 1
THEORY 5-o<
n 1
THEORISE 5"o<
This combination of symbolic relationships is currently productive in the
ODOUR
language as can be seen in such signs as:
IA/
n
MULL OVER 5t3> 5"O< *-
LETTING THE IDEA FLOAT
ABOUT IN ONE'S HEAD 5T3< T

and the compounds


n n
HYPOTHESIS o<A il 5-O< j j
1
B T B-OA '

n
COGNITIVE PROCESS C<A" N S T 5T><

In all of the above examples, the meaning of 'long thin things' or 'lines'
THEORY
was expressed through the vehicle of the 5 handshape. In certain cases, eg,
those relating to thought, a particular type of movement (here wiggling) was
also required t o express the metaphor fully. The meanings expressed ranged
from the concrete to the abstract and the signs themselves varied in form,
some being simple signs, others compounds.
In accounting for any new sign in BSL, we will normally have to examine
the nature of the symbolic link between form and referent. If, as I will
suggest is the case in the majority of examples, there is such a symbolic link,
it will b e necessary to examine the range of morpho-phonemic primes which
can express this link. However, as well as this, it will be necessary to observe
how normal derivational processes such as compounding operate to allow
for a range of forms, possibly all exploiting the same symbolic relationship.

f 2.07 Associated form - meaning relationships


Several frequently occurring components of BSL signs exploit specific
meaning associations. Some of these seem to be partly conditioned by the
wider culture, although at least one has no such cultural basis.
Handshapes
The two most important handshapes which carry such associated meanings
are the handshape and the I handshape. A is typically associated with
notions of 'goodness' and has generally positive connotations. I is typically
associated with 'badness' and has generally negative connotations. There is
nothing about the handshapes themselves which makes them intrinsically
suitable for the expression of such meanings. It does happen to be the case
that within some cultures, and certainly within British culture, the raised
thumb has a positive meaning. This is reflected both in the use of a thumbs
up gesture and within the English language in expressions such as 'giving the
thumbs up to something'. However, this gesture does not have such positive
connotations in all cultures. Examples of BSL signs making use of the A
handshape include
1
GOOD 0 A<x NICE u A-r< *
PRAISE 0 A>x , A<J. CORRECT BA> Axu. V*
5 xx
APPROVE 0 ACLJ. ACLX KIND H A>x , A a x
The I hand is not used within the wider culture to express negative mean
ings. The link between the notion of 'badness' and the I handshape just
happens t o b e exploited within BSL. Many other sign languages, e.g ASL and
SSL, show n o such link. Examples of BSL signs which make use of the I
handshape include: X
1
BAD 01 a TO OBJECT
;
1
B<X_LIT<

n
SUSPICIOUS iTA$ CRITICISE 0 i > i , i<i
FAIL 0 IT> , IT< X TERRIBLE 0 I >A I<A ;
- , . , , i CRITICISE
It could even be argued that in the above cases, the A and l handshapes have
morphemic status in that the handshape itself carries meaning. There is some
difficulty with such an approach in that if one parameter operates a s a
morpheme, then w e need to clarify the status of the other parameters.
Certainly in a sign such a s KIND we could claim that the chest location,
which also has symbolic value, is morphemic, yet it is not clear that the
movement parameter has any separate meaning. Nor is it clear that the
positions and movements in the other A signs have any separate meanings.
Similarly, while the head location in SUSPICIOUS has symbolic value, this
is not the case for the positions or movements in the other signs using the I
handshape. However, as we shall see, similar difficulties may also arise with
other components, such as metaphor and classifier forms. Certainly, if an es
sential criterion of morphemic status is 'having meaning' then the handshapes
and i regularly carry meaning. A completely arbitrary use of these hand-
shapes is quite rare although does also seem to operate as a deictic
handshape (see Kyle and Woll, 1985).
Locations
W e can note two major locations associated with areas of meaning: the head,
usually the forehead, is directly associated with thinking and cognitive
processes generally and the chest area with a range of feelings and emotions.
Both of these locations have productive powers in the language in that new
signs exploit the form - meaning links available.
There is a general assumption that the chest location is meaningful partly
because of a traditional link in many western cultures between the organ of
the heart and feelings of affection and love. Today, the heart motif continues
to be essential to designers of 'Valentine's Day' cards and the like, but it also
features in established (possibly well worn) phrases in English:
"with heartfelt greetings"
"She spoke from the heart"
"He was heartbroken"
Romantic novelists wax eloquent about 'hearts skipping beats', 'hearts rac
ing' and so on. Indeed it may well be that the link between the pace of the
heartbeat and the strength of emotions provides the physical basis of the
association. Whatever the physical reality of this connection, the fact is that
in both BSL and English the link between the heart and feelings has been con
ventionalized. In BSL, however, it has been adapted and extended. It is not
simply the heart location, but the whole chest area which is used for feelings.
Moreover the link is so strong, that there are relatively few new signs relating
to emotion which d o not use this location.
T h e forehead/head area also has a clear symbolism within BSL. Again the
form - meaning link exploited in the language also seems to be used within
the wider culture. Thought and cognitive processes generally are associated
with the functioning of the brain which is physically located in the head. This
form - meaning link is so strong in BSL that it is highly unlikely that new
signs relating to cognition would not be created at the head.
The following examples occurred during a discussion in BSL about cogni
tive processes. The signs exploit several different underlying metaphors,
expressed through the hand configuration and movement parameters, but all
also exploit the symbolism of the head location.The notion of 'processes' was
expressed b y the following hand configuration forms, all made at the head:
Two bent 5 hands, performing a repeated short interlocking movement.

This particular combination is directly linked to a sign normally produced in


D

neutral space meaning MACHINE 0ST> , S-r< . In choosing this
metaphor the signer encourages connotations of 'mechanical' processing.
A/ -
Two B hands moving in a repeated forward circular motion. N B>J. 6>x v
Again this form is normally made within the neutral space area, e.g. for
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES: 0 B > i
n
Two v hands performing an alternating twisting action: v - r > V_LA *'
COGNITIVE PROCESSES
this sign makes use of the TRANSFER metaphor.
All of these forms were produced at the forehead location: the combining
of different underlying metaphors with the conventionalised head location
provides an enormous potential for the development of new signs associated
with cognition. Further examples of these can be noted in chapter 4 and
onwards.
The chest location is also used productively in respect of new signs
AO.
A
associated with emotion. The two-handed sign SENSITIVE I] 8T> 8T<
makes use of the 8 handshape, generally associated with light or delicate
touch (see chapter three) but with an extremely light upward movement, i.e.
the muscles are tensed and the tips of the finger barely touch the chest.
TIMID makes use of the bent hand which makes small circular move-

+03
ments on the chest. Also the shoulders are slightly hunched: T J 5-r> 5T< X
The main group of signs relating to feelings which does not employ the
chest location is the group involving either G or G representing a person.
In form then these signs are simultaneous classifiers and are discussed in
chapter five. However, virtually all of these examples involve actions, rather
than states, although they can be used to express states. Thus OPPRESS
involves the open B hand pushing against the upward left G hand so that it
0
v
moves from an up to a prone position: G OU. B J.A . The metaphor clearly
involves a person being 'laid low' by a larger force. While the sign can be
used in the Stative sense of being or feeling oppressed, this is derived from
the agentive form. A version of this sign has also been noted, which instead
of using the neutral space location, positions both hands at the chest. The G
hand is again placed under the B, and both hands perform a simple downward OPPRESS
movement with the hands brushing against t h e chest. T h e resulting sign
[] { COL> xBT><) k appears to stress the idea that this is a state resulting f r o m
external forces. A similarly derived sign involves the sign IN/INTERNAL
>-l -oj. v * removed f r o m its normal position in neutral space to a central
position on the chest. The resulting sign [] (>x Bxu. v *) expresses the
meaning 'internal feelings'. These three signs a r e all formationally
'double tab' signs (Brennan, Colville, Lawson and Hughes, 1984, p. 71), i.e.
they include both a manual tab position and an additional body action. Such
signs a r e relatively infrequent in the language, but there is the considerable
potential f o r new signs of this type. It i s interesting that despite their
formational complexity, new signs of this type are occurring in the language.
This seems to support the strength of the meaning links mentioned above.

Symbolic dominance 2.08 |


A somewhat opposing trend can b e seen with regard to another set of signs
in the language: those relating to sexuality. Here the position component of
the signs is potentially the lower part of the b o d y . In s o m e signing styles, the
signs can actually b e placed in close proximity to the genital area. In Wo r ds
in Hand (Brennan et al, 1984), a specific tab position is designated partly to
take account of this whole class of signs. A number of these signs are again
double tab signs, e.g. a sign such as SPERM uses the l e f t c hand a s a pro-form
f o r p e n i s and the A hand i s positioned at t h e top of the l e f t index finger. T h e
BUTTOCKS
A hand then opens to a c hand. Both hands a r e then placed below waist level.
G>J. IX AJ. However, Brennan et al also recognised that signs such a s
MASTURBATE WOT<
1
CONDOM W (GTU. i x F<X )
could b e produced either in t h e hip region or a b o v e waist level. T h e latter
tendency was also noted by Woodward (1979) in his work on American
sexual signs. It is interesting to see that the hip tab is rarely used by Martin
Colville in his new account of sexual signs in BSL, Signs of a Sexual Nature
VASECTOMY (Colville,1990). Only 3 examples are given this tab

BUTTOCKS Hcxv
VASECTOMY WFTV FTV

U R I N A T E (Male) WFT>< *

T h e first is a deictic sign, with the G hand pointing to the buttocks, and in this
sense i s comparable to other deictic signs such as N O S E and E Y E which
require an articulation close to or in the direction of the physical area con
cerned. It is clear f r o m s o m e of the illustrations in Signs of a Sexual Nature
URINATE that a relatively low articulation is typical of some signs. However, generally
speaking it s e e m s that location in t h e genital area is becoming less and less
likely.
It i s also t h e c a s e that a considerable n u m b e r of these signs a r e receiving
a much w i d e r exposure, particularly through their use on television and
video. T h e r e c e n t publicity a b o u t A I D S has led t o greater explicitness about
heterosexual a n d h o m o s e x u a l behaviour both within the English based and
B S L based m e d i a . Television p r o g r a m m e s such a s See H e a r (BBC) and
Listening E y e ( T y n e T e e s Television) h a v e encouraged open discussion of
sexual activity. W h i l e considerable use is m a d e of metaphorical and classi
f i e r based s i g n s within these accounts, the general tendency is to locate
virtually all sexual signs a w a y f r o m the genital area. W e can note a contrast
between a sign like B R E A S T S [] '5T> ST< x x which locates the sign a t the
physical location of t h e nipples a n d t h e sign T E S T I C L E S 0 '5^o> 5-o<
which rather than exploiting the hip tab, locates the sign in neutral space.
W h i l e b oth r e l a t e t o actual physical characteristics, t h e genital location is
replaced b y a m o r e neutral option.

W h i l e newly-created sexual signs retain t h e metaphorical use o f , f o r ex


a m p l e , t h e i n d e x f i n g e r hand c t o represent the penis, the overall location is
m o v e d f r o m t h e genital area to the neutral area in f r o n t of t h e signer's b o d y
(approximately waist/above-waist level). T h i s contrasts sharply with signs
related t o c o g n i t i v e meanings, w h e r e the head location is dominant. Existing
signs will actually b e relocated a t the head if cognitive m e a n i n g s are
intended: t h u s P R O C E S S will b e removed f r o m 'neutral space' to 'head' po TESTICLES

sition if specifically cognitive processes are being referred to .


(V) u}
0 B > x B<x 'B>x BCJ.

W e thus h a v e t h e fascinating f a c t that symbolic locations have a stronger pull


than physically based locations.
It m a y well b e that there a r e other factors besides the simple metaphorical
v e r s u s physical contrast which a r e relevant here. Such factors may include:

PENIS
"The overall formational tendency for signs to be produced within a rela
tively limited area of signing space."
Brennan et al, 1984,p 383

F r i e d m a n h a s suggested that:
"...the basic constraints on place of articulation are not language specific,
but rather articulatory and perceptual"
Friedman, 1977, p 34
Siple (1978) stressed the tendency of those involved in sign language
interactions t o m a k e the f a c e (particularly the mouth area) t h e f o c a l centre.
B a k e r a n d Cokely (1980) suggest that:

"...since the signer's waist area is less clear visually than the area around
the face, ASL compensates for this lesser visual clarity around the waist by
adding more visual information onto signs that are made there by adding
another hand that does the same thing."
Baker and Cokely, 1980, p81

A similar p r o c e s s seems to operate in B S L in that m a n y , though not all, signs


m a d e in t h e lower trunk area a r e formationally "double dez" signs, i.e. signs
in which both h a n d s a r e active and both articulate either symmetrical or
complementary movements (sec Brennan e t a l , 1984, C h . 1). H o w e v e r , the
genital a r e a i s well o u t s i d e t h e f o c u s of peripheral vision. Moreover, many
signs potentially occurring in this region a r e formationally 'double tab' o r
'manual tab' signs: o n e hand a c t s upon the other. Frequently, therefore, t w o
d i f f e r e n t handshapes a r e involved. It is clear then that if the genital location
w e r e t o b e used, t h e addressee would b e required t o s h i f t e ye -ga z e in order
t o b e a b l e t o c o p e with the d e g r e e of complexity.
A second possible i n f l u e n c e on t h e location of sexual signs may b e c o m
pletely non-linguistic and cultural. Location below the waist m a k e s t h e signs
m o r e sexually explicit. T h e r e is s o m e e v i d e n c e to s ugge s t that within certain
signing styles, this location is normal and acceptable. T h i s is particularly t h e
c a s e in respect of joke-telling, w h e r e sexual connotations a r e fully intended.
It s e e m s t o b e only recently that sexual signs have been used m o r e publicly,
within a more open context. T h e increase in television p r o g r a m m e s geared
to t h e Deaf community has provided a d i f f e r e n t kind of forum f o r public
debate. O v e r t h e last few years , such p r o g r a m m e s have included documen
tary t y p e accounts of sexual matters, including AIDS a n d live d e b a t e s on
issues such a s homosexuality. W e could predict that within such p r o g r a m m e s
w e might expect a more formal variety of B S L to be used. O f t e n this doe s
seem to b e the case. W h e r e a s a few years ago, both Deaf and hearing
presenters would probably have used finger, spelling for explicit sexual
m e a n i n g s , appropriate B S L signs a r e n o w used much m o r e f r e q u e n t l y .
H o w e v e r , in almost all cases, t h e signer m a k e s use of a non-genital location.
A s w e h a v e seen, in the c a s e of t h e head and c h e s t locations, the
conventional link between position and me a ni ng interacts productively with
other sub-lexical c o m p o n e n t s of B S L signs t o c r e a t e n e w signs in the
language. T h i s symbolic link has a d o m i n a n c e not equalled by physically
relevant locations, such a s the genital area.
H 2.09 Summary of form-meaning relationships in BSL
In contrast to Anderson's suggestion (beginning of this chapter), arbitrari
ness is in fact atypical of the BSL lexicon. BSL sign forms exhibit a whole
range of non-arbitrary relationships with their meanings. This high degree of
motivation is, not surprisingly, exploited within the word-formation proc
esses of the language. It is as if in developing a new word, the linguistic
system operates according to a set of default commands of the following
type:

match the selected meaning with an existing motivated morpheme or mor


phemes in the language;
combine, a s required, two or more such meanings;
f i g u r e 2f
choose an appropriate morphological process by means of which the new Summary of form meaning related relation

form may b e generated; ships in BSL

exploit the appropriate morpho-phonemic primes for the realisation of the conventional signs
new word.
moti r e l a t i o n s h i p of
vated
According to this account, new arbitrary signs will be, in effect, a last resemblance:
resort. It should b e stressed that, of course, all signs, whether motivated or iconic signs
arbitrary, operate through convention. Even where there is a motivated
relationship, the language could have made different choices. This is, in fact, r e l a t i o n s h i p of
what distinguishes one sign language from another, However, contrary to resemblance:
what is sometimes suggested (cf Crystal, 1985, p74), conventional does not (size & shape) and
always imply arbitrariness. interaction (handling)
The summary of form-meaning relationships in BSL presented in figure classifier-based signs
2f on the right provides some hint of the range of possibilities within the
language. In chapter three, the nature of classifiers will be explored in more r e l a t i o n s h i p of
detail; chapter four provides an account of metaphors in BSL and chapter transference:
five provides an account of how such motivated forms are exploited within metaphorically-based signs
the processes of word-formation.
r e l a t i o n s h i p of association:
associative signs

semantic c a t e g o r i s a t i o n :
semantic classificr tisii
signs

arbitrary signs with n o link between


form and meaning
. .but arbitrariness is a last resort. "
Lakoff, 1986, p28

38 f 3. 0 1 first principles

40 1 3.0 2 variable data

40 13.03 classifiers in spoken language

45 f 3. 0 4 key points concerning sign language

classifiers

45 13.05 handshape as classifier

46 f 3. 0 6 non-arbitrary classifiers

47 13.07 specific analysis of classifiers within sign lan

guages

47 H 3 . 0 7 . 1 mcdonald

50 1 3 . 0 7 . 2 suppala

55 1 3 . 0 7 . 3 liddell and johnson

57 13.08 descriptive classifiers or sasses

60 H 3 .0 9 handling classifiers in BSL

63 513 . 1 0 . 1 the vehicle classifier

65 f 3 . 1 0 . 2 the c classifiers

68 1 3 . 1 0. 3 the v classifiers

69 U 3 . 1 0 . 4 the 5 classifiers

71 f 3 . 1 0 . 5 the s classifiers

71 1 3 . 1 0 . 6 the H and G classifiers

72 H 3. 1 1 prototype and inanimacy

76 13.12 interpreting the function of classifiers

78 f 3. 1 3 the funtion of classifiers

80 13.14 flexible classifcation

82 f 3. 1 5 implications for word formation


In recent years, several major contributions to the morphological study of
sign languages have focused on the inherent morphological complexity of
particular sub-groups within sign lexicons (Newport and Supalla, 1980;
McDonald, 1982; Newport, 1982; Supalla, 1986 and Liddell and Johnson,
1987). Several of these studies have suggested that many ASL signs which
were initially analysed as single-morpheme signs could more adequately b e
analysed as multi-morphemic. While a number of different analyses have
been proposed regarding the internal morphological structure of these signs,
virtually all of the analyses give a special role to what are termed classifiers.
T h e aim of this chapter is to examine the nature and role of classifiers in BSL.
This analysis will later be used as a basis for exploring the relationship
between classifiers and metaphorically-based components of BSL signs
(chapter six). In particular, I shall argue that while it remains appropriate to
give special recognition to classifiers as a group, a full account of the rich
productive capacity of the BSL lexicon must go beyond a description of
operations involving classifiers. Indeed, classifiers can be shown to interact
with other sub-lexical units in the production of an unlimited set of BSL
words.

First principles 3.01 H


While written accounts of BSL classifiers have been fairly brief to-date, the
notion of classifier is now widely used and accepted within BSL studies.
However, there is some evidence that the term is used in somewhat different
ways by different researchers. Thus, before elaborating on the role of BSL
classifiers within the creation of new words, it may be worthwhile starting
out from first principles. Crystal (1985) provides a useful starling point:

"Morphemes whose function is to indicate the formal or SEMANTIC class to


which items belong are sometimes called classifiers, eg, '-ly' is an ADVERB
classifier, '-ess' is a 'femininity' classifier. The marking of LEXICAL items
as belonging to the same semantic class is an important feature of many
languages (eg, Chinese, Vietnamese, llopi) and sometimes quite unexpected
bases of classification are found, in terms of shape, size, colour, movability,
animacy, status and so on."
Crystal, 1985, p48

At its most basic then we could argue that a classifier is a marker of semantic
class or category. This definition is quite wide and could possibly open the
door to a much broader account of classifiers in BSL: one which might even
incorporate some elements which we have so far regarded as metaphorically
based components. In order to investigate the possibility, we need to probe
t h e notion of c l a s s i f i e r a little m o r e deeply. L y o n s (1977) analyses classifiers
i n t o t w o m a i n groups: sortal a n d mensural:

"A sortal classifier is one which individuates whatever it refers to in terms


of the kind of entity that it is ... A mensural classifier is one which individu
ates in terms of quantity. The function of mensural classifiers is comparable
with that of such words as 'pound' or 'pint' in English (cf, 'two pounds of
butter', 'three pints of milk')."
Lyons, 1977, Vol 2, p463

L y o n s g o e s o n t o n o t e that mensural classifiers of various kinds a r c probably


t o b e f o u n d in all languages:

"...they approximate to, and indeed in many instances merge with, quanti
fiers (cf Jackendoff, 1968)."
Lyons, 1977, Vol 2, p463

Sortal classifiers, on t h e other h a n d , provide a way of grouping entities into


d i f f e r e n t categories. T h e semantic criteria f o r such categorisation appear to
b e m o r e universal in character than w e might expect (though s e e pages 44-
4 5 ) . A s L y o n s p u t s it, "these principles appear to be much the same the
world over." A s well a s w h a t h a s been termed classification into natural
kinds (eg, p e r s o n , animals, birds, f i s h , etc), other classification is primarily
based u p o n physical o r functional properties:

"...by far the most common principle of sortal classification for entities that
do not belong to natural kinds is shape ( c f , Friedrich, 1969; Greenberg,
1972; Allan, 1977). In many different classifier languages throughout the
world one classifier is used for long thin entities, another for flat entities and
a third for round or bulky entities. Size constitutes another common
principle of sortal classification, so too does texture..."
Lyons, 1977, Vol 2, p465

A n y o n e a t all f a m i l i a r with B S L will immediately recognise t h e operation of


such principles of categorisation. However, w e arc concerned here t o
explore in m o r e depth j u s t h o w these principles operate in the language. Are
categories absolute, f o r example? T h a t is, if a f l a t s u r f a c e classifier is used
in respect of ' t a b l e ' , does this mean that tables must always be grouped, and
possibly, b y implication, thought of as flat o b j e c t s , o r can the signer choose
t o r e - c l a s s i f y o r re-categorise them? W e would not necessarily expect the
a n s w e r t o this question t o b e the s a m e either f o r all classifier languages o r for
all sign languages.

Variable data 3.02 H


One of the problems in making generalisations about classifiers across
languages is the variable data used as the basis for such generalisations.
Allan (1977), in what has become a classic article on classifiers, surveys
more than fifty classifier languages but admits that "the reliability of my
data is variable." (Allan, 1977, p285). Killingley (1983) in her overview
of accounts of classifier languages, including Greenberg (1972) Allan (1977)
and Goral (1978) comments:

"All these studies have helped the general linguist to understand the concept
of classifier. However, because of the often limited nature of the material
found in works on particular languages, linguists interested in classifiers
from the point of view of language universals are often forced to work on
insufficient evidence in formulating generalisations. Futhermore, since
works on individual languages have often had to be based on data collected
from informants and/or dictionaries, and are often the work of non-native
speakers, the nature of the data is sometimes suspect."
S-Y Killingley, 1983, p i

Killingley's own work on Cantonese classifiers provides detailed informa


tion on classifier usage in a single spoken language. T h e more recent
collection of articles edited by Craig (Craig, 1986) brings together a selec
tion of articles relating to classifiers and categorisation. Recent studies
relating to several different sign languages, including American Sign Lan
guage (see above, page 38), Swedish Sign Language (Wallin, 1990), Italian
Sign Language (Corazza, 1990) and Thai Sign Language (Collins-Ahlgren,
1990) are now beginning to supply the kind of detailed analyses of data
required as the basis for more general theoretical work. In my subsequent
account of BSL classifiers, I shall be concerned to note the relationship
between BSL classifier usage, and classifiers in other languages, particu
larly sign languages. The primary intention is to see whether BSL classifiers
f i t into some general notion of what is meant by classifiers and secondly to
note their role in respect of word-formation.

Classifiers in spoken language 3.03 1


Allan's 1977 article on classifiers remains a useful guide to classifier
languages generally. While languages clcarly vary considerably in the range
of classifiers used, Allan is able to identify seven major categories. Of these
seven, the final two, arrangement and quanta,occur also in languages such
a s English, which would not b e deemed classifier languages as such. Allan's
categorisation is summarised below: the entries under 'comments' are either
direct quotations or summaries from Allan, 1977, pp297-306.

categorisation comments / examples figure 3a


Categories of Classification
(Adapted from Allan, 1977, pp297-306)
Material Classifiers "All classifiers which typically refer to
the essence of the entities referred to by
nouns are instances of this category".

(a) Animacy "Probably all languages which have ma


terial classifiers distinguish between
animacy and inanimacy".
(i) human
(ii) animal "Some languages, (eg, the Athapaskan
languages, Nootka, Ojibway,
and Yucateca) have just one classifier for
all animal entities, but in others, human
beings are classified separately"

(b) Abstract and verbal nouns Rarely used.

(c) Inanimacy Covers a large number of classifiers,


eg, trees, wooden objects, bladed or
pointed objects, body parts, food, imple
ments and boats.

Shape Classifiers

(a)long

(b) flat

(c) round "Recently, there has been a preference


for the more precise terms
saliently one-dimensional, two-dimen
sional and three-dimensional".

Shape classifiers often combine with the


consistency category to produce ex
amples of the following type:
Categories of classification 'ropc-like': saliently one-dimensional
(Adapted f r o m Allan, 1977, pp297-306)
(shape) and flexible (consistency);

'slick-like': saliently one-dimensional


(shape) and rigid (consistency).

Sub-categorisations of non-
dimensional shape:

(d) prominent curved extension eg, hills, humps, heaps, etc.

(e) hollow eg, container-like objects, eg, pipe, j u g ,


etc.

Consistency Classifiers

(a) flexible usually combines with other configura-


tional categories, eg,'rope-like', 'bush
like'.

(b) hard or rigid always found in combination with other


configurational categories, e g , 'stick
like', 'rock-like', etc

(c) non-discrete includes classifiers for liquids, tacky


substances and mushy substances.

Size Classifiers

(a) big (a, b): these classifiers typically co-occur


with the shape category.

(b) small

Location Classifiers

Examples include 'plots of land', 'gar


dens', 'fields', 'villages', 'countries, etc.
(All of these could also be classified a s
'material classifers'.)
CATEGORIES O F CLASSIFICATION
Arrangement
(Adapted from Allan, 1977, pp297-306)

(a) an object or a set of objects eg,pleats folds, loops, coils, etc.


in some specific and non-
inherent configuration

(b) an object or set of objects


in some specific position eg, objects in a row, objects in parallel.

(c) specific non-inherent eg, clump, heap, bunch, herd, etc.


distribution

Quanta A very large number of classifiers belong


here in nearly a dozen
sub-categorisations.

(a) grammatical number singular, dual, plural

(b) collection

(c) volume

(d) instance kind of

(e) partive piece of

( f ) measure dimension, volume, weight and time.

Killingley (1983) argues that all classifiers share five universal semantic
specifications at the highest level within a semantic hierarchy. These can be
expressed as five universal binary oppositions:
ANIMATE / INANIMATE
CONCRETE / ABSTRACT
PLURAL / SINGULAR
SORTAL / MENSURAL
QUANTATIVE / NON-QUANTATIVE
Killingley also proposes seven semantic domains of semantic specifications
for sortal classifiers.
1. Purposive features overlapping with features denoting size and shape.
2. Features of sensory perception overlapping with the feature + MOMEN-
TARY.
3. Spatio-temporal features overlapping with the
feature + MOMENTARY.
4 . Graphic features overlapping with
spatio-temporal features + MOMENTARY.
5(a). Physical features of size and shape in relation to matter, sometimes
overlapping with features of location.
5(b). Physical features of size and shape reflecting natural distinctions in
matter, overlapping with spatio-temporal features in the classification of
abstract nouns.
6. Physical features reflecting natural distinctions in matter without refer
ence to other features except (in a few cases) those of attitude.
7. Attitude features.
This analysis poses a number of questions relating to classifier usage
within BSL and sign languages generally. Sign language accounts of classi
fier usage have not tended to includc notions such as ' p u r p o s i v e , " attitudi-
nal,' and 'spatio-temporal' within the criteria for classifier categorisation.
Initial analyses seem to suggest classifiers may combine with elements
which express such features, rather than incorporating such information
themselves. Accounts such as those of Killingley, and the contributions to
Craig, 1986, demonstrate that the notion of classifiers may be somewhat
wider than that traditionally presented within the sign language literature.
L a k o f f ' s discussion of the motivated basis of classifier extensions
(Lakoff, 1986 ) suggests that the basis of classification may b e less direct and
obvious than is often imagined. He demonstrates that even where specific
semantic features such as size and shape or animacy account for the central
members of a class, membership may be extended through other means. One
such process of extension is what Lakoff terms "chaining": here central
members are linked to other members which are in turn linked to other
members. Chained relationships of this type may mean that individual
members may not share semantic similarities with other members. Lakoff
provides fascinating examples from the Australian aboriginal language
Dyirbal:

"For example, women are linked to the sun, which is linked to sunburn,
which is linked to the hairy mary grub. It is by virtue of such a chain that the
hairy mary grub is in the same category as women."
L a k o f f , 1986, p i 7

It is clear from L a k o f f ' s discussion that in examining the operation of


classifier systems, it is necessary to look not only at the nature of the
language itsef, but also at both cognitive processes and the culture in which
the language operates. It is unlikely that any one researcher will be able to
accomplish all of this, but to leave out any of these aspects is probably to
ensure that the jigsaw is left unfinished. In the case of sign languages, it is
worth being constantly alert to the extent to which the gestural medium itself
may influence the basis and extent of categorisation. It may well be, for
example, that physical and spatial criteria are far more important than
abstract semantic criteria in a language which automatically provides spatial
information. This may in turn restrict the operation of the type of linking
processes outlined by Lakoff. I shall return later to spoken language classi
fiers within the context of classic work on Chinese (see pp 80-81).

H 3.04 Key points concerning sign language classifiers


It may be useful here to focus attention on several key points which will be
discussed in more detail in later sections.
Handshapes are generally seen as markers of classification.
The link between the form of the classifying handshape and the meaning is
often motivated rather than arbitrary.
The major groups of classifier include:
size and shape classifiers (SASSes):
classsifier marks out the referent as having specific size or shape features;
handling classifiers:
the classifier marks out the referent as capable of being held in a specific
manner;
semantic classifiers:
the classifying handshape marks the referent out as belonging to a particu
lar semantic category, eg animate beings; vehicles. The forms of semantic
classifiers are less likely to be motivated.
additional (usually smaller) categories such as instrumental, touch and
extent.
Classifiers have been seen as essential components within certain types of
verbs, especially verbs of motion and location.
Classifiers are recognised as playing a key role in the creation of new signs.

1 3.05 Handshape as classifier


When w e begin to look more carefully at proposed examples of sign language
classifiers w e realise that there is both substantial agreement among re
searchers and some significant differences in view. One central point of
agreement is that it is typically, although not always, the handshape within
a sign which is used to classify the referent as belonging to a particular
group. Brennan and Colville (1984) refer to
"...a huge number of examples from our data which we wished to label
'classifier'...signs which in the past had been categorised (even dismissed)
as mimetic or pictorial, were seen in fact to be classifiers."
Brennan a n d Colville, 1984, p l 6

This last comment does, in fact, reveal one of the problems in respect of
classifiers. If we view a classifier as marking out a lexical item as referring

A handshape to a particular kind of referent, then are we inevitably saying something


about degree of iconicity? Usually, if the lexical item includes within itself
some classifying information, such a s a handshape marker, then this inevi
tably focuses in on the relationship between lexical item and referent.
However, in theory, the classification marker could be non-transparent in
itself: it could merely take on a form-meaning link because of its use in the
language. This can be illustrated by an earlier example quoted from Crystal
(see page 12) where he suggests that in English " - e s s " is a femininity

LOOK UP (two round things, ie. heads) classifier, ie, in examples like "actress" and "authoress". In these examples,
the classifier marks out the refcrcni as belonging to the class of women.
However, the classifier "-ess" itself is not 'transparent'. It is only because
we know how this marker works in English, that we are able to understand
what is meant by, for example, new coinings. Thus English speakers would
all recognise the meaning of "poetess" or "leaderess", even though these
may not be commonly used items, whereas a learner of English would not be
able to arrive at this meaning without prior information. There is nothing
about the sound sequence [ ' e s s ' ] which suggests 'femaleness'. It should be
V handshape
noted, however, that even when one knows the meaning of the base form and
the suffix, the overall meaning is not necessarily fully predictable. A recent
newspaper article referred to a "falconess". However, whereas a "poetess" is
a female poet a "falconess" is not a female falcon but a female handler of
falcons. For those of us who are not familiar with Navajo or Cantonese, we
cannot guess the significance of isolated classifier forms. There is nothing
about " ? " which indicates roundness or about "itsooz" which indicates
flatness (Navajo examples from Allan, 1977, p287), just as there is nothing
Handling small, round object
about ' g u e n 2 ' l or 'lug 1 ' which indicates roll-shaped objects. (Cantonese
examples from K il 1 ingley, 1983, p53). Classifier forms then can be, and in
most spoken languages probably are, completely arbitrary.

Non-Arbitrary classifiers 3.06 1


The situation in sign languages seems rather more complex. Classifier forms
are frequently not simply arbitrary. Let us take the notions of roundness or
sphericalness: these can b e expressed in BSL in a range of ways. However,
Handling small, spherical object
the more frequently used classifier forms are:
[46]
the closed fist A usually used in respect of solid, compact round(ish)
objects; typical referents would include ' h e a d ' and ' b a l l ' ('football'). This
classifier seems to focus on the round object as a whole unit.
tf or 5 both seem to derive from the actions involved in holding a round
object. In both cases, the hand can b e more or less open to represent the
relative largeness or smallness of the object. Typical referents would
include, 'button' S?; 'dial, S?; 'large dial 5 and 'handle' $ or 5 depending
on the size. 5 handshape
Two handshapes, F and O, primarily provide a way of drawing attention
to the perimeter of a circle. Thus F is used for 'small change', ie,' coins',
while O is used to refer to the lens units of binoculars and telescopes.
In all the above examples, it could be argued that the form expressing the
classifier is not totally arbitrary: the hand configuration itself bears some
relationship to what it represents. In fact, it seems that most BSL classifiers
are of this type. Even so the relationship between V and round objects may
not b e immediately obvious to a non-BSL user. Similarly, 5 can be used for Handling iargish round object
objects of (relatively) large mass and irregular shape. In these cases, it is
normally used with existential or locational function. Thus 5 can be used
to refer to an island, a house, a boulder, an armchair and so on. It is often
expressed by the non-dominant hand. The BSL sentence
HOUSE
FLOOD RISE
"the floods rose to the level of the house"
involves the articulation of the large mass classifier (here meaning house)
Handling largish spherical object
with the left hand, while the right hand produces the verbal form. The
syntactic simultaneity exhibited in such a sentence is typical of BSL gram
matical structure.

3.07 Specific Analyses of Classifiers within Sign Languages


It may be useful to summarise several key studies in respect of classifiers
within sign language. In order to limit this account to manageable propor
tions, I will refer here only to three key studies relating to American Sign
['APS
Language: those by McDonald (1982); Supaila (1986) and Liddell and
Johnson (1987).

f 3.07.1 McDonald
McDonald (1982) examines single signs in ASL which exhibit verbal mean
ing. Focusing in on the handshape of such signs, McDonald suggests that
these seem to relate to two basic classes of meaning: the shapes of concrete
objects and the manner of their involvement in events. Forms signalling the
shape of an object express both nominal, or pronominal, information and a
Stative m e a n i n g , ie, ' x - t y p e of o b j e c t e x i s t s ' . T h e second g r o u p of h a n d -
shapes a p p e a r s t o express t h e active meaning ' m o v e m e n t of a certain s ha pe d
o b j e c t b y an a g e n t ' . McDonald c l a i ms that:

"...these classifacatory morphemes function as verb stems, or as some other


crucial controlling verb morpheme".
McDonald, 1982, p!90

figure 3b Handshape Classifier Meaning/Function


Classifying forms in ASL
(Based upon McDonald, 1982)
Limited set of f o r m s indicating s h a p e of indicating nomi na l ,
concreto object pronominal o r stative ('x
t y p e of o b j e c t exists')
meaning

eg eg eg
1 indicating f l a t round indicating location of flat
+ bent object round object
+ spread
+ t h u m b opposed
+ contact
(My notation: F ) eg hole, c o i n , etc

F handshape
Limited set of f o r m s indicating m a n n e r of indicating m o v e m e n t
involvement of c o n c r e t e of an x-type of
o b j e c t in event o b j e c t by an a g e n t .
eg eg eg
4 or 2 indicating t h e handling indicating m o v e m e n t
+ bent of a spherical o r round of a spherical o r round,
+ spread flat obj e c t , e g , flat o b j e c t , eg
+ t h u m b spread 'doorknob', T V dial, 'doorknob', T V dial, etc
handshape
+ contact etc
(My notation: 9 o r 5 )

5 handshape

[48]
T h e m a i n internal evidence provided b y McDonald f o r this proposal centres
around the claim that:

"1. These forms control the meaning of the resultant verb construction.
2 . Often the more active verbforms generalize to signal verbs regardless of
object classification."
McDonald, 1982, pii

M c D o n a l d also p r o v i d e s supporting evidence for the credibility of such an


analysis b y describing the c o m p a r a b l e system which operates in N a v a j o , an
Athapaskan l a n g u a g e . U s i n g illustrative examples, McDonald describes
h o w m a n y v e r b s t e m s classify t h e objects involved in events. T h u s the
N a v a j o stem may s p e c i f y t h e object a s animate; it may rcflcct physical
characteristics such a s shape, size and texture and it may reflect t h e number
of actors involved in t h e e v e n t . Illustrative e x a m p l e s quoted by McDonald
include:

-*lts'id: 'solid round object' (moved)


- * 0 d l : 'slender flexible object' (moved)
-*0thzh: ' a n i m a t e object' ( m o v e d )
- * 0 k e e z : 'slender stiff o b j e c t ' (moved)
T h e s e stems a r e elaborated by p r e f i x e s to form w h a t McDonald calls the
' s k e l e t o n ' of the v e r b o r the verb ' b a s e ' . T h e c o m p l e t e form is derived from
t h e b a s e through t h e u s e of appropriate prefixes t o represent such grammati
cal f e a t u r e s a s subject, o b j e c t , person, number, m o d e and aspect. The
f o l l o w i n g illustrative examples a r e taken from McDonald, 1982, p 179.
y^ . y i ri ' :"she g a v e a twenty f i v e cent piece to him."

him s h e p r e f . h a n d l e
r~ 1
+ to a SRO
h n ' . h :"you take a round o b j e c t out of an enclosed space."
o u t you handle a S R O
n^ n ' . h :"you p u t a round object down."
d o w n you handle a S R O
M c D o n a l d ' s a c c o u n t suggests an analysis of A S L verbs such a s 'give a box'
r e v e a l s a similar type of structure. H o i j e r ' s statement regarding Apachean
languages a p p e a r s to hold true f o r A S L also:

"... in all the Apachean languages, there is no simple verb 'to give', but a
number of parallel verb themes consisting of a certain sequence of prefixes
plus a classifactory verb stem."
Hoijer, 1967, p l 3 . Quoted in McDonald, 1982, p l 7 9
T h e link between A S L classifier us a ge and N a v a j o h a s a l s o been noted by
other sign language researchers. N e w port (1982) provides a description of
the A S L equivalents of a set of N a v a j o e x a m p l e s quoted in Allan (1977).
Allan e x a m p l e s :

b e e s o si-?a = money lie-of round entity: "A coin is lying (there)."


b e e s o si-ltsooz = money lie-of flat flexible entity: "A bill is lying (there)."
b e e s o si-nil = money lie-of collection "A p i l e of c h a n g e is

lying (there)."
A S L examples:
Money F L A T - R O U N D - S H A P E (F-handshape) "A c o i n is lying there."
B E - L O C A T E D (contact m o v e m e n t )

Money F L A T - W I D E - S H A P E (B-handshape) "A bill is lying there."


B E - L O C A T E D (contact m o v e m e n t )

Money D O M E - S H A P E (5-handshape) "A pile of c h a n g e


B E - L O C A T E D (contact m o v e m e n t ) is lying there."
Newport, 1982, p466

N e w p o r t notes that in ASL the classifier oc c urs simultaneously with the


m o v e m e n t or location m o r p h e m e , rather than sequentially a s in N a v a j o .

Supalla 3.7.2
S u p a l l a ' s account of verbs of motion and location in A S L (1978, 1982,1986)
h a s s o m e similarities with M c D o n a l d ' s , although there a r e several descrip
tive and theoretical d i f f e r e n c e s . W h i l e both s e e such verbs a s involving
combinations of classifier m o r p h e m e s (handshapes) a n d m o v e m e n t or loca
tion m o r p h e m e s , they d i f f e r in respect of which is to b e seen a s the ' r o o t ' or
stem. Supalla (1982) argues that:

"the root of the ASL verb of motion or location consists of one of a small

number of possible movements, referring to the underlying predicate type

(existence, location or motion) of the noun and, for verbs of motion, one of
a small number of possible movement paths (eg, linear, arc or circle).
Obligatorily affixed to the movement stem is a set of articulator morphemes,
consisting of a hand or other body part, formed into a particular shape and

located in a particular place and orientation along with the movement path.
The handshape is typically the classifier morpheme of the verb of motion or
location (ie, it marks the classification of the noun as, for example, legged
vs non-legged)."
Supalla, 1986, P 183
Certain movement roots can b e combined simultaneously to produce com- figure 3c
, . , , . . r , . . . . . . . 'Fall' based on Supalla, 1978
plex meanings, eg, the combination of the arc-root with the mid-pivotal root
can produce the meaning 'fall', see right.
The full set of movement roots posited by Supalla is set out below.

f i g u r e 3d
analysis of ASL movement roots, adapted from
Supalla, 1978, Newport, 1982.

form meaning example

hold root no movement: the hand 'be stationary' bent V hand held station

X remains in one place. ary in front of the body,


means
STATIONARY.
S M A L L A N I M A L IS

contact root there is a brief move 'be located' V used with this move
1 ment before the hand ment means: SMALL

stops at a specific A N I M A L IS L O C A T E D T H E R E .

location.

linear root hand moves in a straight movement from one place with V, it would mean
path from the initial to another. SMALL ANIMAL MOVES

point to the end point. FROM ONE PLACE T O T H E

OTHER.

arc root the hand moves in an arc to move, through an arc. V , SMALL ANIMAL JUMPS

from the initial point to FROM O N E PLACE T O A N

the end point. OTHER.

circular root the hand moves through to move in a circle, V , SMALL ANIMAL MOVES

a circular path.
O
IN A C I R C L E .

end-pivotal root one end of the hand is 'to swing' G, long vertical thin
fixed, while the other straight shape to the
< end moves across space. ground (eg, LAMP-POST).

mid-pivotal root the hand changes orien- change of orientation to V , SMALL ANIMAL TURNS

tation with the middle of pivot horizontally or UPSIDE DOWN.

the hand fixed. vertically (turns upside


down).
The importance of this set of movement roots lies in Supalla and Newport's
claim that movement in space is not simply 'an analogue' of movement in the
real world. Rather than varying continuously or indefinitely, movement as in
ASL verbs is expressed through the above morphemes which can b e seen as
discrete elements. I shall return later (pages 123 t o l 2 3 ) to the question of
whether the movement or the classifying morpheme should be seen as the
verb stem. For the moment, I shall focus more directly on Supalla's
categorisation of classifier types within ASL. His basic typological analysis
is presented below:

figure 3 e 1. Size and Shape Classifier The handshape represents the size and
Typology of ASL classifiers,
shape of the objects. (Parts of the
(based on Supalla, 1986)
hand are morphemes which individu
ally represent various aspects of the
referent object).
2. Semantic Classifier The hand represents the semantic
category of the referent object.
3. Body Classifier The body articulator is used to refer
to animate objects that have bodies
and limbs.
4. Bodypart Classifier The hand or some other part of the
body is used to represent a bodypart
in the referent.
5. Instrument Classifier T h e referent is classed according to
the type of instrument (either a hand
or a mechanical instrument) which
acts on the object.

Supalla provides a fairly detailed account of sub-classes within these groups,


although in some cases, the limited number of illustrative examples from
ASL makes it difficult to assess the appropriateness of distinctions. For the
moment, I wish to draw attention primarily to his treatment of SASSes. The
term SASS, ie 'size and shape spccificr' now has wide currency within the
sign language literature (cf, Newport and Bellugi, 1978; Klima and Bellugi,
1979; Baker and Cokely, 1980; Wilbur 1987 ). Supalla presents what is in
effect a 'hierarchy' of SASSes in ASL. He provides examples from the first
simplest level through to the third level, ie, the more complex. Within his
account, classifiers at the higher levels arc "semantically and phonologi-
cally more complex than earlier derived forms" (Supalla, 1986, p i 87). One
crucial feature of Supalla's account is that he regards parts of the hand
(rather than the overall hand configuration) as separate morphemes, each one
representing some specific aspect of the referent. Such an approach allows
him to build up the proposed derivations for each final classifier form.
T h e following diagram extracted from Supalla, 1986, describes Supalla's
proposed organisation of some static SASSes in ASL.

figure 3f
T h e organisation of some static SASSES,
point straight round angular size
Supalla, 1986
specifier SASS SASS SASS specifier


first level static SASSES

$$ && (?(?
second level static SASSES

<5

ft ^
third level static SASSES

Within Supalla's first-level, there are SASSes which can allow referents
that are O-dimensional (eg, dots or specks), one-dimensional (eg, a stripe)
and two-dimensional (eg, a coin). At later stages of the derivational process
further hand-parts can be added which thereby provide either a further
dimension or a further aspect of a dimension (eg, relative width). Supalla
also establishes an additional higher level grouping within the SASS cate
gory which he terms tracing SASSes. Here the hands trace a two or three
dimensional object in space, eg, the shape of a house, a room, a box, a
window, etc (cf, M a n d e l ' s notion of 'sketching' as a type of 'virtual depic
t i o n ' , Mandel, 1977). Again Supalla stresses that such tracing is not
idiosyncratic and erratic. Instead, there are grammatical rules governing the
types of patterning which can occur within the tracing process.
The next major grouping discussed by Supalla is that of semantic classi
fiers. These are said to refer abstractly to a particular semantic category, eg,
the category for trees. However, a s Supalla himself notes, several of those
which he mentions also have a recognisable link between the form of the
classifier and the physical properties of the referent. The combination of the
spread hand 5 and the vertical forearm to give T R E E has a link with a
conventionalised notion of trees, even though it may b e used for trees of
varying shapes, sizes and types. Further discussion of semantic classifiers
with respect to BSL can be found in the second half of this chapter.
While ASL classifiers have typically been seen as morphemes expressed
through handshape configuration, Supalla extends the notion to include two
further groupings: the body classifier and the bodypart classifier. In prac
tice, most of the examples which he provides under the latter can also be
linked directly to SASSes. Indeed, in many cases, a particular physical
feature of an animate being is shown by the use of an existing SASS placed
in an appropriate location. Thus the SASS representing several long thin
things 5 when placed at the signer's mouth could refer to the teeth of a tiger;
just as in BSL the SASS marking long narrow objects (H ) when doubled and
placed at the signer's chest may refer to the front legs and paws of certain
four legged animals (eg. dog, cat, rabbit). The signer may refer to the animal
itself by the use of the appropriately located SASS. Thus the signer is not
necessarily making reference to teeth or paws but is presenting an image in
which these features are salient. This fact encourages considerable use of
such signs within certain styles of signing.

As well as this kind of combination of body location and SASS, Supalla


also recognises the body itself as an independent morpheme, "to mark noun
agreement referring to an individual person" (ibid, p93). He gives only one
example, HIT-IN-THE-EYE, and suggests that the signer's body can be used
as a marker to refer to the body of a referent object. However, there is very
little supporting evidence to demonstrate why such reference should be
accounted for within the classifier system. Given the complex interplay
between pronominal usage, role shift and general systems of reference, such
a proposal requires further clarification and illustration.
A further, particularly important, distinction is made within Supalla's ac
count. He distinguishes two types of instrumental classifier:
instrumental hand classifiers: here the shape of the hand when it is involved
in manipulating or handling objects is reflected within the hand configura
tion of the ASL classifier (these are known elsewhere in the literature as
handling or grasping classifiers: cf, McDonald, 1982; Brennan and Colville,
1984).
tool classifiers: in which the hand configuration of the classifier reflects the
shape of the tool or instrument which is being manipulated by the agent of
the action. According to Supalla, these are often 'hybridised' forms made up
of different derivations of handparts, orientation and movement. He points
out that with some tools, the signer has a choice between instrumental hand
classifiers or tool classifiers (eg, screwdriver, wrench, knife and scissors);
while f o r others there is no such choice available. As we shall see this choice
also seems appropriate for BSL classifiers, althought the class of tool
classifiers is considerably smaller than the instrumental hand classifiers.
Supalla also demonstrates that secondary features of noun classes, such as
visual texture and tactile texture can be shown by the addition of extra
morphemes to SASS classifiers. Thus the addition of a floating movement
across space to the SASS handshapes 5 5 representing the volume of an
object will refer to liquid substances; while the addition of a wiggling
movement to the same classifiers will refer to gaseous substances. As we
shall see, BSL also allows such additional meanings to b e expressed through
the classifier system, although not always in the ways that are identical with
the ASL system. Moreover, it may be more appropriate to recognise these as
metaphorically based morphemes rather than classifiers.

I 3.7.3 Liddell and Johnson


Liddell and Johnson (1987) have also developed an analysis of ASL classi
fying morphemes operating within spatial-locative predicates. The follow
ing comments are based on a presentation given by Liddell and Johnson at the
International Congress on Sign Language Research in Finland in 1987 and on
the handout accompanying this presentation. No further published details are
available at the present time. It is also worth stressing that the analysis
presented was seen a s representing the current understanding of the presen
ters and was not offered as a final analysis. The following comments should
be similarly regarded as somewhat tentative.
Liddell and Johnson follow Padden (1983) in distinguishing three classes
of ASL verbs:
person-agreement verbs
plain verbs
spatial locative verbs
Within the last grouping, they distinguish a group of lexicialised verbs and
a group of productive/polysynthetic verbs. This distinction relates directly
to the frozen/productive contrast which is discussed on page 181.
Within the spatial locative grouping, Liddell and Johnson also distinguish
three different categories of predicates on semantic grounds;
Process roots: these signs describe an action or a process, eg, movement of
an entity.
Stative-descriptive roots: the signs describe a stale, eg, the sidc-by-side
arrangement of several vehicles.
The contact root: the signs describe a state: they indicate the location and
orientation of the entity being represented by the handshape.
Their categorisation of handshape morphemes is based on a combination
of morphological and semantic criteria, ie, as well as discussing semantic
features, they discuss the use of these classifiers with specific predicate
roots. Again, it is important to recognise that Liddell and Johnson provide an
analysis of classifiers within the context of an account of spatial-locatives in
ASL. An examination of their account suggests that many of the classifiers
discussed by Supalla are also covcred here, although the proposed categori
sation is somewhat different. This categorisation is based upon both seman
tic and morphological criteria. Thus, scmantically whole-entity morphemes
represent whole entities (eg, a cup, a piece of paper, an upright person);
surface morphemes represent surfaces upon which other items can be located
(eg, a thin surface such as a wire, a wide surface, a ladder) instrumental
morphemes represent instruments (eg, a knife, a pair of tweezers, a rake) and
include the hand acting as an instrument (eg, the hand holding a thin thing;
the hand holding a small flat thing, etc). Within their account, Liddell and
Johnson specify the kind of morphological (possibly morpho-phonemic)
restrictions applicable to each group. Thus while whole-entity morphemes
can occur with all three types of predicate roots, surface morphemes typi
cally occur with contact and process roots; depth and width morphemes are
restricted to Stative descriptive predicates and extent morphemes are re
stricted to process morphemes.

At first sight, some of the categories proposed by Liddell and Johnson


seem to allow for a rather mixed bag of possibilities within a single category.
In fact, this is also true of other attempts at categorisation. The representa
tive whole-entity morpheme group seems to relate to the semantic classifiers
specified by Supalla (1986), Wilbur et al (1985) and others. These are
discussed in some detail below. The fact that Liddell and Johnson do not
follow Supalla in separating out a ' t o o l ' category from a 'handling' category
is responsible for the mixed bag within the representative instrumental
morpheme group. At the other extreme, they separate out classifiers which
initially seem identical. Thus the form ' H o - ' appears under the representa
tive surface morpheme category and is glossed as narrow surface. It also
appears under the 'representative depth and width' morphemes where it is
characterised as typically describing a narrow strip and being of medium
width and unspecified depth. While both appear to have a similar semantic
content ('narrowness' and ' f l a t n e s s ' ) they are distinguished by the kinds of
morphological combinations into which they may enter. The accounts of
Supalla and Liddell and Johnson both recognisc that beneath surface simi
larities there may be differences of patterning which involve a complex
interplay of morpho-phonological features and semantic restrictions.
K 3.08 Descriptive Classifiers or SASSes figure 3g
Mor
As we have seen above, the term size-and-shape-specifier, shortened to the Phol8lcally related size-and-shape
specifiers,based on Newport 1982
acronym S ASS has become widely used in the sign language literature. It has
particularly wide currency within ASL research and has probably been most thin & straight

fully discussed by Supalla (eg, Supalla, 1982, 1986), although the term
appears to have been used first by Newport and Bellugi, (1978). Within
narrow & straight
Supalla's account, SASSes are morphemes which operate within verbs of
motion and location in ASL. These morphemes agree with the noun in
respect of specific aspects of the size and shape of the referent. What is wide & straight

original about Supalla's account is the claim that these are 'hand-part
flat & round (circle)
morphemes' rather than single holistic handshapes.

shallow & round (shallow


"Each SASS actually consists not of a single handshape morpheme, but of a
cylindrical)
group of simultaneous hand-part morphemes: each finger as well as the
thumb and forearm is a possible morpheme which can combine in specifiable deep & round (cylindrical)

ways to form a handshape..."


Supalla, 1986, pl86

It is doubtful whether such an analysis is appropriate in relation to BSL. Pri


marily, it is not fully clear from the examples given by Supalla that these
hand-parts can indeed be said to have discrete values. Of course, it does make
sense to recognise the types of related contrasts shown on the right.
Thus it is easy to recognise that G, H and B are used to refer to straight
objects of varying degrees of width; while the curved equivalents (with the
, W m handshape
thumb parallel but bent like the fingers in W o r d s in H a n d analysis), , fl
and B (ie, in the more usual BSL notation C ) are used to refer to round
objects of various degrees of thickness. However, it would be totally false
to suggest that such values are in any sense absolute. In other words, it is the
signer's choice whether to view an object as being thin, narrow or wide. His/
her choice may depend upon the context, the perspective or change of per
spective desired and the information focus required, as well as characteris
tics of the object itself. A simple example may help to illustrate this: within
H handshape
the BSL story T h e W e e p i n g Willow (Edinburgh BSL Project, 1983) the
signer refers to the sleigh, pulled by reindeer, first winding up a hill, then,
travelling very very fast, winding back down. Three different classifier
forms are used within the verb of motion:
Wm (ie, three fingers extended and held together)
H (two fingers extended and held together)
C (index finger extended)
Interestingly, at this stage the signer does not use the expected form: the
G handshape
prototypical vehicle classifier BTDJ. * . There arc various possible reasons
f o r this usage, all of which appear to b e linked to the particular narrative
f o c u s , echoed by visual perspective, which the signer wishes to present.
Within the narrative, the signer conveys the speed of the sleigh and the
distance it moves down the winding hill. The move from the relatively wide
form.Wm, (though not the fully wide B) to the narrowest form, G, shows
this perspective. T h i s is an example of a phenomenon that we see again and
again in B S L , ie, what I have termed "flexible classification": the language

B handshape provides a range of possible choices. It is the signer w h o decides which of


the choices suit the needs of the particular message.
Of course, these observations would not necessarily invalidate S u p a l l a ' s
account. However, it remains obscure what meaning is regularly expressed
by t h e ring finger in Wm as opposed to the middle finger. Yet the meaning
of the Wm classifier a s a whole unit could be described a s ' f l a t and relatively
wide o r n a r r o w ' . It is only the context which tells us whether to view the flat
object a s narrow or wide. Relative to a C f o r m , the object may b e considered
a s wide; relative to a B form, the object may be considered narrow.
a fox...
Similarly there are certain instances where the 4 hand is preferred to the 5 ,
e g , to express RAKE (as in a garden rake) or C O M B (as in a large-toothed
c om b), in contrast to the 5 used for STRIPES or to refer to ' g r o u p s ' of
objects perceived a s ' l o n g and t h i n ' . T h e d i f f e r e n c e lies only in the position
ing of the thumb. Yet it would be very difficult to ascribe a separate, discrete
meaning to the thumb alone. It therefore seems appropriate to adopt a more
' h o l i s t i c ' approach than Supalla: each handshape classifier is viewed as a
w h o l e at the morphological level. Of course, this does not deny that each
a sheep...
handshape can also b e seen as consisting of sets of features, such a s 'spread-
n o n - s p r e a d ' , ' o p e n - c l o s e d ' , a t the phonological level.
Size and shape specifiers allow us to refer to items in terms of some salient
aspect of their physical appearance. This salience is, a s it were, in the "eye
of the beholder": the signer chooses what is important in a given context.
Within the established lexicon, choices have already been built into the
system by previous generations of signers. T h e following BSL signs relating
to animals demonstrate the way in which SASSes have played a key role in
FOX
the development of specific sign forms:

object salient feature

PANDA white band between eyes.

pointed snout.

SHEEP
SHEEP curled horns
object sign salient feature
SWAN 0 [BT3> X ./B<A) * long neck and pointed beak.

A
n t
BADGER B"T< white strip of fur between eyes.

D g
EAGLE C I A " 0 5 X A 5XA hooked beak and claws.

Yet even in such groupings as animals, where features seem to stand out and
present themselves a s obvious bases for the establishment of signs, other
possibilities are usually available. Some of these possibilities have actually
also become part of the recognised lexicon. Thus one sign for SQUIRREL
X A 5
a X
W CT focuses on the large bushy tail, while another !=/ v > A V<A
focuses on the action of a squirrel as it holds and eats food. Signs exploiting
descriptive classifiers are not limited to signs for animals. The following
short list provides some other typical examples;
BOAT 0 B>x x B<_L 1 flat sides and pointed bow. squirrel
1
T O SAIL 0 |bt)> ia ) L shape of sail and mast.
SPACE SHUTTLE 0 V>A G<A " shape of plane and rocket,
MEASLES ~ ft-
5T A 5T A
m <X > many small spots.
GOAL 0 V<A * narrow uprights and space in
between.
SANDWICH B a i B-ox * ' two flat surfaces.
BRICK 0 C > x C<X * shape and depth of single
brick.
PRIEST TT G T A shape of narrow dog collar,
HEARING AID 3
C-DX ' shape of 'behind the ear' aid.
( * )
CAGE 0 <Jx < , <J x : long narrow bars.
CHEQUE 0 YT> , YT< outline of narrow shape.
While SASSes are clearly built into the structuring of the established
lexicon, they d o not occur in as many signs as we might expect. It is not
absolutely clear why this is the case. Obviously, by their very nature, their
use is limited to objects or persons. Yet when we look at items within the
SQUIRREL
established lexicon, w e see that many words for objects tend to make use of
other types of motivated relationship, especially metaphorical links or inter
actional (handling) links. It is as if, as humans , we tend more towards links
which indicate how w e interact with objects or what we use them for rather
than simply exploiting descriptive possibilities . Of course, this latter point
brings us to the heart of the matter. T h e existence of descriptive classifiers
as a group, leaves open the potential for exploiting such forms deliberately
within the productive lexicon. This is especially true within joke-telling and
story-telling, two activities which are central to Deaf cuture. It may be SAIL
helpful to clarify this type of usage with reference to some specific ex
amples, although the productive uses of descriptive classifiers will be
decribed in more detail in later sections and chapters. As well as the various
signs meaning 'walk' within the established lexicon, there are numerous
ways, within what may be called the productive lexicon, of creating appro
priate signs for specific types of creature walking. Thus the signer may make
use of SASSes along with appropriate movement options. T h e movement

1 C A T WALKING
involved will typically include an alternating directional movement and this
may b e further modified to show manner of movement. The following
examples have all been noted to express the meaning of 'a cat walking':
1
0 HX)I H T ) ! * "
T A/
2
0 C T>X C TJI *

3
0 7 A T V /A-TV *
T fSl
x 4
0 5-ox 5 ^ x
The first example uses two H SASSes: this is a fairly common SASS for

2 C A T WALKING
use with animals such as cats, dogs, foxes, rabbits etc.. The H SASS suggests
the two narrow legs and paws of the animals. The second sign uses C
SASSes: here the focus is both on the narrowness of the legs and on the
manner, it is almost as if the animal is on tiptoe. The third example makes use
of a completely different classifier: here the whole of the lower arms repre
sent the legs of the animal and the hands are closed into fists to indicate the
paws. Here the emphasis is on the relatively large size of the animal and
would b e used where the signer regards the cat as massive. T h e last example
makes use of the bent 5 hand which takes the emphasis away from the legs
3 CAT WALKING
to the claws of the cat. Of course, there are numerous other verbs which
could b e created through varying combinations of such descriptive classifi
ers and specific movement options. Descriptive classifiers seem to have a
major role then within productive morphology, although they are also
present to some extent within the frozen lexicon.

Handling Classifiers in BSL 3.09


As w e have seen above, several researchers have noted the occurrence of
4 C A T WALKING
handling or grasping classifiers in sign languages. This category demon
strates very clearly that categorisation is not simply based on the character
istics of objects themselves, but on how individuals interact with these
objects. It is quite clear that BSL makes considerable use of such classifiers,
both in the established and productive lexicon. The handshapes here indicate
how people would normally get hold of or handle specific types of object. Of
course, the size and shape of the object influences how we would handle it,
but the classifier is not in this case representing these characteristics in
themselves.
Well over half of the significant hanshapes of BSL can be used as handling
classifiers. The following examples provide some indication of the resources
available, although a full listing is presented at the end of this chapter.

The A handshape, for example, is used for referents which would typically
be grasped firmly within a closed fist. Of course, the actual type of grasping
may differ to some extent in real life. The form of the hand configuration
may be looser or firmer, the fingers more or less tightly bent and the fingers Handshapes A and
more or less spread. However, within BSL, this handshape action has become
conventionalised and the A hand is used for a whole range of referents. Many
of these are long, narrow and cylindrical in shape, such as ski poles, oars,
canoe poles, javelins spears, iron bars etc.. Others may be relatively short but
narrow. Thus the A handshape is used for handles of various types, eg mug,
jug, teapot, brief- case, handbag, shopping bag etc..
The handshape is used for referents which would normally be handled in
a more controlled manner, eg key, hammer, screwdriver, fishing rod etc.. The Handshapes F and B
F handshape is used for referents that typically require more delicate han
dling, eg jewellery, pins, thread, the string of puppets, fine levers etc. The B
handshape is used to indicate the handling of shallow flat objects, such as
books, videotapes, files, wads of paper etc.. 5 is used to indicate the
handling of round or spherical objects such as handles, jar lids, headphones,
dials and so on. If the object referred to is smaller or perceived as being ! n O

smaller, then the handshape used is the \? handshape. The table presented
at the end of this chapter summarises the use of BSL handshapes as handling
Handshapes 5 and
classifiers.
Again it should be noted that handling classifiers may have become
'frozen' into the established lexicon as well as being used productively in an
on-going fashion. The following examples show how such classifier forms
are exploited within the established lexicon:
COMPUTER DISK 0 Bxv *
BRANDY 0 So.< ?
3
MOBILE PHONE (T> F ^ I 1 )
BRANDY
3
EARPHONES 5>A 5<A "
TAPS 0tfx>x^x"'
VIDEOTAPE 0j l v I
SCREWDRIVER 0 tji"'
1
JOINER B-ox A<X , '
COBBLER 0 TO-L - O X '

+
MEASURE 0 F-ox , F-ox
The use of handling classifiers within the productive lexicon is discussed in
MOBILE PHONE
more detail in later sections.
1
Semantic classifiers 3.10
A s w e h a v e seen a b o v e , m o s t researchers have recognised a set of "semantic"
o r "abstract" classifiers. T h e s e a r e seen either a s being less directly linked
t o t h e physical features of their re fe re nt s than SASSes o r a s ha vi ng n o mo
tivated link a t all. A s suggested earlier (pp46-47), there is n o expectation in
spoken languages that classifier f o r m s should b e transparent. Newport
describes abstract classifiers in A S L a s " c l a s s i f y i n g o b j e c t s o n the basis of
figure 3h semantic characteristics." (Newport, 1986, p l 4 6 ) . Despite the d i f f e r e n c e in
some semantic classifiers of ASL, left column
terminology (ie, "semantic" rather than "abstract"), Supalla a p p e a r s t o b e re
(adapted fromNewport, 1982, p468), and a di
rectly comparable list i n BSL, right column.
ferring to t h e same classifier group when h e c o m m e n t s that " c o m p a r e d t o
S A S S e s , semantic classifiers are s o m e w h a t more abstract in terms of repre
senting o b j e c t s . " (Supalla, 1986, p l 9 0 ) . N e w port lists six examples of se
HUMAN
mantic classifiers. T h e s e are shown on the left with their BSL equivalents.
As with Liddell and J o h n s o n ' s whole-entity m o r p h e m e s , this seems a
rather mixed bag. Are we not dealing in both c a s e s with e x a m p l e s which
simply d o not quite fit elsewhere? I would like to suggest that in most cases
SMALL
ANIMAL
yy t h e e x a m p l e s could also be found in more physically-based categories.
Possibly t h e oddest e x a m p l e in the g r o u p is T R E E , followed b y A I R P L A N E .
Should w e really regard these a s classifiers a t all? A r e n ' t they simply frozen
signs within the language? Supalla a rgue s that while it is pos s i bl e to recog
nise a conventional tree-like shape in the hand-arm c onfi gura t i on, the
c l a s s i f i e r c a n b e used t o r e f e r to trees of d i f f e r e n t shapes, e g , palm trees o r
p i n e trees:

"Thus this classifier refers abstractly to the semantic category of trees and.
UNATTACHED
not to the shape of the referent."
MASS
S u p a l l a , 1986, p l 9 0

Although this is certainly true in respect of the B S L sign T R E E


TREE
BT>> J 5 < A " ' also, it ignores the fact that many other signs in both BSL
and A S L seem to operate in a similar manner. Indeed t h e sign T R E E appears
t o belong t o the ' f r o z e n ' lexicon of BSL, while the c l a s s i f i e r C E N T R A L
POLE-LIKE STRUCTURE WITH SEVERAL LONG THIN EXTENSIONS
is a productive, although not very f r e q u e n t , size and s h a p e specifier.
Similarly, A I R P L A N E is included in the listing f o r A S L . W e know that like

T R E E , the B S L sign A E R O P L A N E 0 Y-oi can b e used for all kinds
of planes, f r o m a "Jumbo-Jet" to a two-seater light a i rc ra ft . A E R O P L A N E
a n d T R E E function like numerous other lexical items in t h e language. If w e
view the handshape in A E R O P L A N E a s a " f r o z e n " s i z e and shape specifier
a n d describe it in t e r m s of a solid (variably-shaped) m a s s with t w o salient
extensions, then w e can n o t e its presence both in a n u m b e r of established
forms within the language ( e g , T E L E P H O N E 3 YT< * , PIPE O Y<A
and W I N E O Y<x T ) and a s a productive handshape i n n e w , posssibly
one-off, constructions, e g H A N G I N G M O B I L E (of the type found i n c h i l -
UM
dren's nurseries): ^ Y T , Yx>< " a n d B U T T ( e g , two goats o r other
animals with h o r n s ' b u t t i n g ' their h e a d s together): 0 Y^OA Y^OA X X
If w e include T R E E and A E R O P L A N E a s semantic classifiers, why not also
include HOUSE 0 BXJA IX B^OA'*'V which can r e f e r t o any house, whether
o r not it has the t y p e of roof a n d overall s h a p e demonstrated in w h a t might
b e thought of a s the ' p r o t o t y p i c a l ' sign? W h y not include B I R D O D I A * " 1
which again m a y r e f e r to a w h o l e r a n g e of b i r d s f r o m robin to red cardinal?
Clearly t h e list could b e extended considerably.

1 3.10.1 The VEHICLE classifier


The VEHicLE-classifier i n BSL seems rather more straightforward t h a n its
counterpart in A S L . Several researchers have pointed out that the ASL
VEHicLE-classifier V does not bear any direct ' i c o n i c ' relationship to its
r e f e r e n t s , e g , c a r s , motorcycles, e t c . However, there is etymological evi
d e n c e that it m a y b e derived f r o m the sign f o r ship and that the handshape
r e f e r s t o t h e m a s t a n d spars of a sailing vessel (Supalla, 1986, p i 9 0 ) .
Interestingly e n o u g h , this is in accord with A l l a n ' s finding that most vchicle
classifiers in spoken l a n g u a g e s originated a s classifiers for sailing vessels.
Thus t h e Hau sa n o u n s f o r airplane, long and train a r e a l l c o m p o u n d s of the
n o u n " f i r g i " m e a n i n g boat (Allan, 1977, p300).
I n B S L , the s a m e t w o classifiers are used t o represent a range of vehicles,
ASL vehicle classifier: CAR TRAVELLING
including cars, boats, lorries, buses, e t c . T h e t w o f o r m s are presented here
U PHILL
i n their most neutral positions: the f i r s t is the flat B hand held with p a l m
f a c i n g d o w n and f i n g e r s pointing away f r o m the signer 0 Boi * and the
second is t h e f l a t B hand held on its side, so that the palm faces l e f t and t h e
f i n g e r s point away: 0 B<_L . It does seem that t h i s form bears s o m e
physical relation t o the referent, depending to s o m e extent on the s i g n e r ' s
perspective. T h u s t h e overall handshape, roughly o b l o n g in shape (longer
than wide) a p p r o x i m a t e s t o the s h a p e of what w e m i g h t call the ' p r o t o t y p i c a l '
car. T h e vertical f o r m , 0 B < x is m o s t frequently used i n BSL to refer
t o motorbikes which can b e viewed a s relatively high narrow objects.
H o w e v e r , p erh aps surprisingly, this f o r m is also used by signers to r e f e r to
items such a s c a r , b oat, van, etc. It h a s not been possible t o discern a clear,
d e f i n i t i v e pattern in this usage. T h e choice s e e m s to depend entirely upon
t h e s i g n e r ' s c h o i c e of perspective, i . e . t h e way the signer chooses t o view the
o b j e c t o n any given occasion. W h a t is very clear is that the relationship
between r e f e r e n t a n d classifier is not an absolute one. T h e signer w i l l make
BSL vehicle classifier: CAR WINDING ALONG
choices according t o his/her view of the events. T h i s point is discussed
further below under" Flexible Classification."
Should we then treat the vEHicLE-classifiers as belonging to a separate group
of semantic classifiers? In fact, the flat B handshape is used for a whole
range of other classifying functions in the language. It is clearly used as a
SASS to refer to objects which are flat or have flat surfaces. As such, it is
built into a number of the established signs of BSL such as:
SEAL 0 B<v , B>v * '
1
TOAST 0 Bai
AUTOMATIC DOORS
AUTOMATIC DOORS 0 BTA B T A ^
It is used as a handling classifier mainly when both hands use the B
configuration. Thus it would be used in the verb
T O CARRY A PILE O F FLAT-ISH OBJECTS
0B a i Bai 1
'

when referents such as books, towels and videotapes are involved.


It is also used as an instrumental classifier to refer to flat tools such as blades
as in the following signs:
CARRY PILE O F FLAT OBJECTS
v x
GUILLOTINE 0 (BT> BT< )
SAW 0 B<.L 1

T O CHOP 0 Bai5

B is used as a touch classifier in verbs such as


T O PAT 0 B-ox * "
TO RUB 0 B "ox '
T O STROKE C<A X B<xf
GUILLOTINE The B hands are also used in a variety of ways as classifiers of extent, ie to
indicate large amounts, considerable numbers and large size.
However, when B occurs in non-agentive verbs of motion, it always refers
to vehicles. Non-agentive verbs of motion are those which do not carry the
implication that there is an agent performing the motion involved. We can
note examples such as:
CAR TRAVELLING UPHILL 0 B<X *
CAR COMING T O ABRUPT HALT
O T

STROKE BA > X B<_L * * *

CAR WINDING ITS WAY ALONG THE TWISTING ROAD


0 B<x *
Although common sense may tell us that someone must be in the car driving
it in order to make it move, this is not apparent within the language itself. It
is fascinating to note that this is also true of the English sentences
"The car moved up the hill"
"The train moved along the track."
CAR COMING TO AN ABRUPT HALT The same forms would be used whether the train was being driven by an
individual, operated by remote control or moved because of other factors,
such a s gravity. In fact, the English sentence
"The car wound its way up the hill"
seems to imply that the car itself is the agent of the action. When the B hand
is used in verbs of this type, then it is almost always referring to vehicles.
Because of this it seems reasonable to distinguish the semantic vehicle
classifier a s one of the possible range of classifiers expressed by the B
handshape. Like several other semantic classifiers, it does bear some resem
blance to the items within the semantic categories involved, although this
link is by no means fully transparent. As the vehicle classifier clearly
functions in different ways from items within the other classifier groups
expressed by B, it makes sense to distinguish the following categories:

B-VEHICLE-CL

B-SASS-CL

B B-HANDLING-CL

B -INSTRUMENTAL-CL

B-TOUCH-CL

B B-EXTENT-CL

f 3.10 .2 T h e G classifiers
Inger Ahlgren (1988) has suggested that it is misleading to see the G PERSON

classifier a s somehow typical of classifiers as a whole. She suggests that the


G PERSON classifier can enter into a range of constructions which are not
readily available to other classifiers. A close look at BSL suggests that this
is indeed the case, although it may also be appropriate to treat the 5 PEOPLE

classifier as a special case also.


In one sense, both G and 5 could be regarded as specific sub-groups of
SASSes (see page 37). Within such an analysis, G is typically seen as
referring to 'saliently long thin things' and 5 is seen as being made up of
'several long thin things' (although we know that 5 is also used with the
meaning of 'several'. Human beings could be said to belong to this physical
grouping, ie, they are (normally!) taller than wide. However, if we stop and
Handshape G - u p
think about the other types of object which can be referred to by G and 5 ,
w e can see that the kind of constructions they can enter into are more limited.
The G hand, for example, may be used to refer to a pencil, a telegraph pole,
a barrier (pole), a log, a rod, wire, a cigarette, etc. The prototypical referent
of G is probably not simply long and thin, but cylindrical. As we see in the
above examples, size is relatively unimportant: the apparent oddity of using
the same classifier for telegraph pole and cigarette is nullified by the fact that
in this case overall shape is the predominant feature. If size is important
within the context of a particular discourse, then the signer has other means Handshape G-sidc
to show this. F o r example, the signer could use the t w o C hands to emphasise
cylindrical shape and height f o r , say , a telegraph pole. Similarly if the
signer wishes to refer to the positioning of rows of pillars in a church, the
choice is available between the use of two G hands performing a short
downward movement in steps away f r o m the body: 0 G > A G < A ( V X )

( 1v )
o r the use of t w o C hands in a similar way: 0 C>A C<A
T h e latter choice f o c u s e s on the volume of the pillars and g i v e s us a closer
perspective. If the signer wished to indicate a rifle leaning against the trunk
of a tree, f o r example, several possibilities are available. He/she may first
C>J
mark the height and extent of the tree by - * c < x ' , then use the l e f t
flat B hand to represent the vertical surface of the tree with the right hand G
configuration held at an angle so that the fingertip touches t h e palm of the B
x
hand: B>A , G a v Because of the built in flexibility within the classifier
system, the signer can choose to focus on different aspects of physical f o r m .
Hence the signer can foc us on the height of the tree, its cylindrical trunk, its
flat outer surface, its numerous branches, e t c , depending on the particular
focus that is relevant within the specific discourse.

If w e think about the nature of the non-human, or even non-animate


referents of G, we see that they are either ' s t a t i c ' physical objects such as
pillars, telegraph poles, etc, or objects which can b e acted upon by animate
agents, eg, a cigarette can be held and smoked by a h u m a n ; a twig can b e
gnawed b y a squirrel or pecked by a woodpecker. Such referents cannot
m o v e and act freely: they can ' b e located' or they can be moved by external
agents. W e do not normally have verb forms in which two tree trunks c o m e
together, separate, move together through space, etc. Of course, should an
imaginative c h i l d r e n ' s story, l e t ' s say, require such activity then the G
classifiers would operate a s they do in respect of human beings. Neverthe
less, the typical usage of what we can call G sAss(ie, G as a size-shape
specifier) is much more limited. It seems clear that the G PERSON-CL is used
in a wider range of contexts and in a wider range of sign types (see further
Chapter 5 on simultaneous classifier compounds). However, it should also b e
noted that the G handshape when used as a G PERSON CL is almost always
oriented s o that the finger points upwards. There are s o m e exceptions, but
these appear to occur rarely. However, as the G SASS CL can occur in a whole
range of orientations, including finger up, this feature is not by itself able to
distinguish one classifier usagefrom another. Examples of the G PERSON C L

in dynamic verbs include:

MEET 0 GT A GT A , *

SEPARATE 0 G > A , G < A " 1

JOIN A Q U E U E 5 >A G <A ?

F O L L O W T W O PEOPLE 0V I A C X A 1
PERSON SEPARATING FROM ANOTHER AND WANDERING

O F F INTOT H E DISTANCE CTA C I A ' " I '


ONE PERSON CONFRONTING ANOTHER [] (GXA , G X A X )

T W O PERSONS SEPARATELY BUT SIMULTANEOUSLY


?
APPROACHING A THIRD PERSON 0 c TA G TA

I n several o f the a b o v e e x a m p l e s , o n e C hand ( t y p i c a l l y t h e n o n - d o m i n a n t

hand) r e m a i n s s t a t i o n a r y , i n d i c a t i n g t h e s t a t i c l o c a t i o n o f o n e of t h e p e r s o n s .

Thus a s well a s re pre se n ting t h e actions of i n d e p e n d e n t agents, t h e G PERSON


PERSON SEPARATING FROM ANOTHER...
CL c a n also i n d i c a t e t h e location o f a n individual, o f t e n i n relation t o other

individuals or objects, eg
1
ONE PERSON STANDING BESIDE A ROCK 5 T>X , GIA
;
A PERSON STANDING BEHIND A DESK BX G I A ,
5
A PERSON STANDING BESIDE A WALL B >A , GIA

A P E R S O N S T A N D I N G B E H I N D A C O U N T E R BX G I A , ;

The PERSON-CL an a l s o take on t h e ro le of ' a f f e c t e d ' , either a s a separate sign

(pro-form) within clausal structure o r as a morpheme w i t h i n compounds,


TWO PERSONS APPROACHING A THIRD
p a r t i c u l a r l y simultaneous c o m p o u n d s . I n a c l a u s e s u c h a s

I REJECT HIM [] G T < V 8XA [ , ]


t h e a f f e c t e d p e r s o n ' H I M ' is e x p r e s s e d b y t h e G PERSON CL, either i n its G or

G f o r m . I n the s i m u l t a n e o u s c o m p o u n d s

FLATTER O A . B U , H
D
GIVE HELLT O G>A , B < v , S '

the non-dominant hand is the PERSON C L representing the person a f f e c t e d by


FLATTER
t h e m e t a p h o r i c a l s t r o k i n g a n d h i t t i n g . G a c t i n g a s a s i z e and s h a p e s p e c i f i e r

a l s o occurs i n c o m p o u n d f o r m s . However, i t n o r m a l l y cannot take an

a g e n t i v e f u n c t i o n i n other c o n t e x t s .

It m a y also se e m a p p r o p r i a t e t o distinguish G ANIMATE CL i n that G is also

used to r e f e r t o a n i m a t e b u t non-human r e f e r e n t s . It m o s t t y p i c a l l y o c c u r s i n

c h i l d r e n ' s s t o r i e s , a c c o u n t s o f c a r t o o n s o r i n p r o c e s s e s of p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n .

Thus in a s t o r y when a r a t c a t c h e r ( a man) a n d t h e c h i e f rat c o n f r o n t e a c h

other, t h e s i g n e r u s e s : 0 C O > GX>< T

O n e h a n d is actually referring t o a person, the other to an animal.

H o w e v e r , t h e r e a p p e a r s t o b e n o f o r m a l d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n the t w o uses.

I n d e e d the u s e o f t h e PERSON CLASSIFIER simply s e e m s t o stress that t h e a n i m a l

i s o p e r a t i n g i n a human-like m a n n e r . I n t h i s s e n s e , i t is c o m p a r a b l e t o t h e u s e

o f p e r s o n a l p r o n o u n s f o r a n i m a l s in E n g l i s h .

I w o u l d l i k e to s u g g e s t t h e n t h a t it i s m o s t a p p r o p r i a t e to t h i n k of s e v e r a l

s e p a r a t e , though r e l a t e d c l a s s i f i e r s w i t h r e s p e c t of t h e G h a n d s h a p e :

G-PERSON-CL

G-SASS-CL expressed by either G or G i n a r a n g e of p o s s i b l e


positions and orientations.
G -INSTR-CL

G-PERSON-CL is used for human referents and, as indicated above, for


animate referents which enter into the same types of structure as G -PERSON-

CL. G-SASS-CL is a size and shape specifier referring to objects which are
typically long, thin and cylindrical: the size of such referents is largely
immaterial (ie, the same classifier can be used for cigarettes and massive
stone pillars). G -INSTR-CL may refer to long flat instruments or tools such as
a knife, a poker, a drill bit, etc.

The V classifiers 3.10.3 ^


A similar division would also seem to be appropriate in relation to V and 5 .
As noted above (p 23), the VTV CL is categorised by Newport (1982) as
human. Kegl and Wilbur (1976), and Wilbur et al (1985) describe this as

"Person ambulatory (by legs): V hand, usual orientation is fingertips down


for 'stand', 'walk', 'kneel', but may have other orientations."
Wilbur et al, 1985, p2

Again it seems clear that V can be used to refer to human referents, non-
human animate referents and objects with two salient straight extensions. V
enters into its widest range of uses within the person paradigm. Here it can
occur within both stative and dynamic verbs, act as a pronominal, and enter
into compound constructions. We can then distinguish:
PERSON WANDERS AIMLESSLY
V-PERSON-CL Stative-locative/Agentive roles/Affected roles
V-SASS-CL Stative-locative/Affected/Instrumental roles
V-INSTR-CL Instrumental roles
Examples of V-PERSON-CL in use would be
PERSON WANDERS AIMLESSLY AROUND
0 Vxji'i ' ' Verb of Motion: Agentive use
PERSON TOTTERS ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF
B T> x v -ox S Stative-locative
PERSON TOTTERS O N EDGE O F CLIFF
FOUL Affected role within simultaneous classifier
D
V-ox G-ox, o T
compound (see page 150 f f )
I

Note that it would be possible to use the first two examples also in relation
to an animate non-human referent such as a bear. In specialised contexts, it
would also be possible for these same forms to be used for inanimate objects.
The main character of T h e Iron Man by Ted Hughes is a huge iron man.
While he is specifically not 'human', the author allows him characteristics
of a human being. Similarly, if one were to construct a two-legged robot, it
would be quite appropriate to use the V-PERSON CL, thus allowing agentive
type roles that would otherwise b e impossible.
The V - S A S S - c L is used in contexts where the particular physical feature 'two-
long-thin extensions' is significant, eg, in relation to teeth, medal ribbons,
etc. It most frequently functions within stative locative verbs " a V-like
object is located here". The V-INSTR-CL is typically used in relation to two-
bladed/pronged tools (pliers, wrench, etc) and is used in instrumental verbs,
ie, where the classifier represents an instrument acting upon an object. Some
external agent (normally a person) is required to manipulate the instrument.
Examples of V-SASS-CL and V-INST-CL include
?
WHEEL NUTS BEING UNSCREWED AT> X V^O<

BUCK TEETH oVx>xx


CB }
BARBER GTA VT< (
(
SHE C U T T H E MATERIAL B-OX , V<x f

f 3.10.4 The 5 Classifiers


The 5 classifier is probably the most complex because it enters into such a
W H E E L NUTS BEING UNSCREWED
range of meanings. As we shall see in chapter four 5 also expresses
metaphorical relationships. For the moment, it may be useful to indicate the
several key types of classifier usage:
5-PEOPLE-CL

5-SASS-CL

5 5 -INSTR-CL

5-SEVERAL-CL

5 5-MANY-CL

5 handshapc
The 5-CL can be expressed by one or both hands with varying meanings.
Again, we can see the people and animate classifiers entering into ageniive
as well as locative-stative functions. Typical examples include:
PEOPLE PROCESSING
0 5T)I 5X>X Verb of Motion: Agentive
PEOPLE FILING
A
0 5>A 5<A T ' Verb of Motion: Agentive
GROUPS O F PEOPLE JOINING THE END O F A QUEUE
PEOPLE PROCESSING
5-LA 5TA f Verb of Motion: Agentive
AUDIENCE SEATED IN CIRCULAR HALL
CD )x x
0 5-oj.
IX 5Tj. I Locative-stative
The use of 5-cl as an affected object seems infrequent and seems only to
occur when also expressing locative function in examples like:
X
THE PERSON PASSED THE GROUP 5>A , OIA F

The primary use of the 5-SASS-C1 is in relation to objects which are seen to
have 'several or many long thin extentions'. In contrast to the singular G-
SASS-CL, the physical feature cylindrical does not seem to be an important
component. The following are typical 5-SASS-CL uses:
FLUTTERING EYELASHES
U 5XA 5XA " Agentive
THE LOGS WERE SWEPT ALONG THE RIVER
0 5tox 5"ox > Affected function
HIS HAIR STOOD ON END
n a
5T>J- Stative-Affected

F L UT T E RI NG E Y E L A S H E S INSERT
* 5 t > Bti-l* * Affected role within simultaneous
compound
The 5 5-INSTR-CL can be used with reference to objects which we would
handle with the fully spread hands. These would typically be large flat or
flat-sided objects such as large boxes, piles of books etc.. However, often the
B-SASS-CL would be preferred.
1 suggested above that it may also be appropriate to specify two further kinds
of 5 classifier in relation to plurality.
5-SEVERAL-CL

5 5-MANY-CL

These could possibly be subsumed under one of the other headings; however
it may be useful to distinguish these simply to stress that in these examples
the semantic feature of 'plurality' is dominant over other possible interpre
tations. Let us look at several examples:
( * )
x
GROUPS OF PLANES FLEW OVER THE CITY C 5x>x 5T>_L
In this case the visual image which is expressed seems to stress number over
GROUPS O F PLANES
physical shape: planes in the air do not necessarily look like 'long thin
things'. The central handshape used for PLANE is Y - a compact handshape
with two salient extensions. In the above example then, plurality seems to
dominate over physical features.
x
BEES SWARMING 0 5 "oJ. 5 "ox
In the above example, the form out of context would seem to mean something
like many small x moving: the wiggling of the fingers providing the
semantic connotation of smallness. It is also clear from the illustration that
BEES SWARMING
the smallness component is stressed by the non-manual features, ie, eye-gaze
following the hands and the mouth in a circular formation. Again, the 5
hand configuration does not seem to relate at all to the size and shape
specification of 'long thin things'. Instead, plurality is dominant.
The 5-CL is also used to express 'extern': at its most basic, this may simply
be varying versions of 0 5>x , 5<x " indicating size and extent. It may
X
also be used to indicate spreading outwards. 0 5x>x , 5 - o x x
A
or upwards 0 5xjx 5x>x .
LARGE (extent classifier)
J 3.10.5 The 5 Classifiers
BSL generally makes use of the bent 5 hand as a classifier for objects of
unspecified shape or irregular mass. This contrasts with the use of the A
hand in ASL. The 5 CL may be used for relatively large, irregular masses,
such as islands, rocks and boulders, or more clearly defined structures such
as houses, sheds, items of furniture, etc. It if often used to express locational
information. Thus often the signer may use an alternative sign to refer
initially t o ' h o u s e ' o r 'cottage', but then articulate the 5 classifier with the handshape

left hand, allowing the right hand to show some other feature in relation to
the hand, eg, trees surrounding the house; a river running by the house;
smoke coming from the chimney of the house.
As with the previous handshapes used within semantic classifiers, 5 is also
used for other classifying functions as in the following examples taken
mainly from the established lexicon:
5-SASS-CL SPIDER 0 5-ox "
5-HANDLING-CL RUBIC CUBE 0 5 > A 5 < X " ~ '
RUBICCUBE

5-INSTR-CL MECHANICAL GRABBER B-O> X J 5 -OX*

z
5-TOUCH-CL SCRATCH [] 5 X < "
+
5-EXTENT-CL AUBERGINE 0 5>x , 5<x

f 3.10.6 The H and G classifiers


H and G: small animal
If we return to the list of possible semantic classifiers presented on page 62,
there are two remaining items which have yet to be considered. H and G can
MECHANICAL GRABBER
probably both be used in connection with small animals. They occur in
frozen forms such as:
( 7 ")
CATERPILLAR 0 H-
( )
WORM 0 c <x
However, in these cases the wiggling movement seems as important as the
classifier. The above forms indicate long thin things which can 'slither'.
Two H hands, without the wiggling movement, when held at the chest can
refer to a small four legged animal sitting up on its hind legs: G G would
be much less likely. Probably more frequent in BSL is the use of H H as in
[] HT)X H OX * to show a smallish four legged animal, frequently a dog
or a cat, sitting up. The two H H hands can also be used to indicate the animal
waiting, pausing, etc: many variations are possible. However, all of the
above cases can most properly be seen as examples of SASSes which may or
may not be used to represent (stand for) the whole entity: animal, dog, cat,
etc. It seems then that BSL has rather different usage in this area from ASL.
The above discussion suggests that while some classifiers do group
referents into semantic categories, most also show some physical relation to
w h a t they represent. T h e s a m e h a n d s h a p e c a n have a semantic function,
identifying referents a s human or a ni ma l s but may also e x p r e s s a r a n g e of
o t h e r c l a s s i f y i n g f u n c t i o n s in the language. A s u m m a r y of the d i f f e r e n t
c l a s s i f y i n g f u n c t i o n s of all t h e s i gni fi c a nt ha nds ha pe s within B S L is given
a t t h e e n d of this chapter.

Prototypes and inanimacy 3.11 H


In attempting t o s p e c i f y t h e nature of the link between physical re fe re nt s a n d
c l a s s i f i e r s it is useful h e r e to e x a m i n e the notion of ' p r o t o t y p e ' . I shall d o
so initially within t h e context of the notion of ' a n i m a c y ' . Allan (1977)
suggests that

"Probably all languages which have material classifiers distinguish be


tween animacy and inanimacy."
Allan, 1977, p299

In f a c t , Allan notes a range of d i f f e r e n t types of classification. He illustrates


h o w s o m e languages, e g , the Athapaskan languages, N o o t h a , O j i bw a y and
Yucatec, have o n e c l a s s i f i e r f o r all a n i m a t e entities; in Oriental languages
a n d s o m e American Indian a n d Bantu languages, human be i ngs a r e classified
separately f r o m animals. Is it possible t o m a k e a n y general statement in
relation t o sign languages?
S o m e interesting work carried out by Wilbur e t al (1985) may b e relevant
here. T h e researchers examined u s e r s ' perceptions of t h e semantic domain

figure 3i
of classifiers. T h e researchers concerned m a d e use of f o u r representations

1. G up each of thirteen d i f f e r e n t classifiers, see f i g u r e 3i on the l e f t . T h e i r results f o r


2. G side = horizontal G - u p a r e shown below.
3. V walk
4. V Stat(ionary)
5. Vehicle
6. Plane
7. A dot (A> )
8. Fore(arm) up
9. Fore side (ways)
10 B up
11. B down (palm facing down)
12 B side (palm facing sideways)
teal
13. C
Wilbur et al, 1985, p i l
Wilbur et al. 1985 page 15

Subjects w e r e shown stimulus items and asked to imagine that they had
walked into the middle of a conversation and the stimulus w a s the first sign
that they saw. T h e subject had t o try to imagine w h a t the c l a s s i f i e r could
h a v e r e f e r r e d to a n d h e n c e w h a t the person could have been signing about.
T h e s u b j e c t s r e s p o n d e d b y circling appropriate drawings in a response
booklet. T h e f i n d i n g s in relation t o the G u p f o r m (ie that most typically used
in BSL for the G-PERSON-CL) are particularly relevant here.
T h i s result l e n d s support t o t h e overall claim m a d e by Wilbur e t al that
"classifier groups exhibit prototype structure" involving prototypes and
peripheral m e m b e r s . It could b e argued that the notion of prototype is also
important to an understanding of h o w metaphors operate within B S L .

I t is clear f r o m t h e accounts of W i l b u r e t al (1985) and Boyes-Bracm (1981)


that their use of t h e term coincides with D a h l ' s (1985) suggestion that
underlying t h e notion of prototype is

"... the idea that concepts are best understood in terms of a description of
what the 'best exemplar' of the concept or category is like."
Dahl, 1985, p4

Dahl g oes on t o stress that this presupposes that not all m e m b e r s of a


category h a v e t h e s a m e status

"... the extension of a category has to have a 'focus' and a 'periphery', where
those entities that belong to the periphery will have a more or less dubious
membership."

Dahl, 1985, p4

L a k o f f (1986) h o w e v e r , implies that non-central would not necessarily mean


d u b i o u s . H e n c e h i s c o m m e n t that:

"Ducks and v u l t u r e s a r e not prototypical birds, but they are n o n e the less

birds."
L a k o f f , 1986,p43

It m a y b e worth noting h e r e that s o m e authors m a k e a distinction between


'stereotype' and 'prototype'. Hurford and Heasley (1983) for example
p r o v i d e t h e f o l l o w i n g definitions:

"A PROTOTYPE of a predicate isan object which is held to be very TYPICAL


of the kind of object which can be referred to by an expression containing the
predicate."
H u r f o r d and Heasley, 1983, p85

"The STEREOTYPE of a predicate is a list of the TYPICAL characteristics


of things to which the predicate may be applied."
Hurford and Heasley, 1983, p8

T h u s within t h e Hurford and Heasley account

"... a prototype of an elephant is some actual elephant, whereas the stere


otype of elephant is a list of characteristics which describes the prototype.
The stereotype of a predicate may often specify a range of possibilities (eg,
the range of colours of typical cats), but an individual prototype of this
predicate will necessarily take some place within the range (eg, black)."
Hurford and Heasley, 1983, p99

L a k o f f ' s distinction between typical e x a m p l e s and social stereotypes s e e m s


t o relate more directly t o c o m m o n - s e n s e usage. L a k o f f s use of "typical"
a p p e a r s to relate to Dahl's use of "central". T h u s for Lakoff "robins and
sparrows a r e typical birds" while "the stereotypical politician is conniving,
egotistical and dishonest". T h i s latter suggestion could imply that cultural
i n f l u e n c e s a r e greater in respect of stereotypes than prototypes, although
even prototypes may have cultural links . Throughout this discussion " proto
type" will mean a typical instance of a s pe c i fi c category of classifier (or,
later, metaphor). 1 will also, when appropriate, re fe r t o t h e characteristics as
sociated either with a speci fi c prototype o r with the category in general.
In this context, the findings of W i l b u r e t al suggest that t h e prototypical
r e f e r e n t of 'G up' is human o r animate. However, a possible, b u t more
peripheral r e f e r e n t may b e vertical or large, but not necessarily a n i m a t e . O n e
of t h e m o s t surprising results of the f i n d i n g s of Wilbur e t al in relation t o t h e
' G u p ' classifier is that this configuration is acceptable for p e r s o n s lying
down o r sitting, a s well a s for persons standing (Wilbur e t a l , 1985, p 15).
T h i s seems t o g o against our visually-based expectations: a c o m m o n s e n s e
view would suggest that vertical orientation in real life should b e mirrored
by vertical orientation within the gestural configuration. T h i s and similar
apparent oddities in relation to classifier usage simply strengthens t h e claim
that while sign languages may exploit visual mirroring t o s o m e extent, they
a r e n o t c o n f i n e d by the restraints of direct visual c o p y i n g . T h e fact that in
A S L , ' G u p ' can b e used to re fe r t o prone individuals suggests that linguistic
meaning takes priority over m e r e gestural echoing of real l i f e action. Having
said this, it may nevertheless b e worth thinking a bout w h a t t h e results mean
in practice. T h e y seem t o suggest that if t h e classifier is used with r e f e r e n c e
t o h u m a n s , actual orientation is less important than the f e a t u r e ' a n i m a c y ' .
T h i s i s in s h a r p contrast to the f i n d i n g s for ' G s i d e ' classifier, t h e prototypi
cal o b j e c t of which "has a horizontal orientation and is relatively thin"
( W ilbur e t al, 1985, p l 8 ) . T h u s when ' a n i m a c y ' is r e m o v e d , the f o c u s falls
m o r e directly o n physical features of s h a p e and orientation and there is more
dir ect visual e c h o i n g . T h e research b y Wilbur and her colleagues leaves open
t w o important questions. C a n w e m a k e any inferences f r o m such experimen
tal d a t a t o real l i f e language use? Secondly, since n o such findings a r e
available f o r B S L , it is possible t o m a k e any direct links?
It i s clear f r o m t h e discussion in Wilbur e t al, that their research was
undertaken within the context of a w i d e spectrum of linguistic work o n A S L .
M o s t of t h e p r e v i o u s studies, including those quoted in the article, appear to
b e b a s e d upon observational data o r work with consultants, although u n f o r
tunately, there is n o t a l w a y s a s much information a s o n e would wish f o r on
t h e source of e x a m p l e s . W i l b u r a n d her colleagues also point out that the
s p e c i f i c task required subjects t o m a k e a j u d g e m e n t of comprehension but

"this does not necessarily mean that the subject would actually use that
classifier for the particular noun referent."
Wilbur et al, 1985, p l 6

Certainly s o m e of t h e smaller percentages suggest that there is something


strange g o i n g o n . T h u s within ' G u p ' figures of 3.4 were recorded for
' i n a n i m a t e , vertical not l a r g e ' a n d , even more surprisingly 2 . 3 for ' i na ni
mate, not v e r t i c a l ' a n d within ' G s i d e ' w e have a 3.4 response for ' v e r t i c a l ' .
An e v e n higher reading i s given f o r ' h o r i z o n t a l ' usage in respect of ' 5 u p ' .
T h i s last e x a m p l e s h o w s that even for the configuration in which the arm is
held vertically f r o m the elbow with t h e palm facing either sideways o r away
f r o m o r t o w a r d s the s i g n e r ' s body (but not down), s o m e signers could
i m a g i n e a usag e in which this classifier referred to a horizontal object.
Certainly the observational data on B S L suggests that this is highly unlikely.
I t m a y b e that in giving their responses, the subjects a r e over-conscious of
' r a r e p o s s i b i l i t i e s ' . A s W i l b u r e t al p u t it, the best interpretation (for the two
smallest p e r c e n t a g e s of t h e ' G u p ' classifier)

"... is that in at least some subjects' minds there is a remote possibility that
the signer could have been talking about the nouns in those categories (as
might be the case if a novice hearing signer were to choose the wrong
classifier)."
Wilbur et al, 1985, p l 7

H o w e v e r , w e a r e here more directly concerned with t h e fluent BSL user,


rather than n o v i c e hearing signers. Despite this type of worry o v e r the
f i n d i n g s , I w o u l d suggest the main results accord well with my own analysis
o f a w i d e r a n g e of n a t u r a l a n d e l i c i t e d d a t a ( s e e c h a p t e r o n e f o r c l a r i f i c a t i o n

o f t h e d a t a - b a s e used f o r this a c c o u n t ) , a l t h o u g h I w o u l d m a k e o n e m a j o r

c a v e a t . I w o u l d s u g g e s t t h a t by c a t e g o r i s i n g s i m p l y in t e r m s of ' f o r m ' , i e ,

h a n d c o n f i g u r a t i o n a n d o r i e n t a t i o n , w e m a y b e m i s s i n g s o m e of t h e structural

c o m p l e x i t y hinted a t e a r l i e r in this c h a p t e r . T h u s it s e e m s m o r e a p p r o p r i a t e

t o s p e c i f y t h e s e t of G c l a s s i f i e r s in t e r m s of

G-PERSON-CL

G-SASS-CL

G-INSTR-CL e t c

a s i n d i c a t e d e a r l i e r . T h e y c a n then b e c h a r a c t e r i s e d in t e r m s of t h e k i n d s of

f u n c t i o n s they m a y e x p r e s s within a s i n g l e m o r p h e m e , c o m p o u n d , p h r a s e o r

c l a u s e . M o r e o v e r t h e G f o r m c a n b e separated and r e - g r o u p e d a l o n g with

o t h e r i n s t r u m e n t a l c l a s s i f i e r s , f o r e x a m p l e , o r a l o n g with o t h e r S A S S e s .

Interpreting c l a s s i f i e r s 3.12 1
It s e e m s c l e a r f r o m t h e e x a m p l e s q u o t e d e a r l i e r , a n d f r o m n u m e r o u s o t h e r
e x a m p l e s within t h e d a t a b a s e , that o u r recognition of t h e G c o n f i g u r a t i o n a s
a s p e c i f i c t y p e of c l a s s i f i e r is d e p e n d e n t upon both m o r p h o - s y n t a c t i c i n f o r
m a t i o n and the w i d e r c o n t e x t of t h e d i s c o u r s e . An e x t r a c t f r o m a B S L version
of T h e I r o n M a n by T e d H u g h e s , is d i s c u s s e d in s o m e detail b e l o w . I t is
w o r t h d r a w i n g attention t o o n e set of e x a m p l e s h e r e . In t h i s p a r t i c u l a r
s e c t i o n of t h e s t o r y , t h e Iron Man (a h u g e iron c r e a t u r e , l a r g e r than a h o u s e )
i s s c a t t e r e d in p i e c e s o v e r c l i f f s and t h e s e a s h o r e a f t e r f a l l i n g d o w n the c l i f f .
T e d H u g h e s d e s c r i b e s in g r a p h i c detail how t h e v a r i o u s p a r t s of t h e b o d y f i n d
o n e a n o t h e r and p u t t h e m s e l v e s back t o g e t h e r a g a i n . A t o n e p o i n t t h e s i g n e r
d e s c r i b e s h o w t h e legs (with v a r i o u s o t h e r b i t s a t t a c h e d t o t h e m ) h o p a r o u n d
s e a c h i n g f o r o t h e r e l e m e n t s . T h e s i g n e r h a s p r e v i o u s l y used
V
1
B"o> x V"ox * ' r e f e r r i n g t o a s i n g l e l e g h o p p i n g a b o u t , ie, t h e legs classi

f i e r p l a c e d on t h e f l a t B h a n d , b u t with c o n t a c t o n l y b e t w e e n t h e m i d d l e
( a [cc] - )
f i n g e r and t h e l e f t h a n d . N o w h e c h a n g e s t o 0 'x>x

in w h i c h the o p e n i n g f r o m the c l o s e d to the o p e n G h a n d s h a p e stresses t h e

h o p p i n g m o v e m e n t . T h e s i g n e r c o n t i n u e s t o f o c u s on t h e a c t i v i t i e s of t h e s e

d i s e m b o d i e d legs with their a p p e n d a g e s , b u t now c h a n g e s the m a n n e r a n d

orientation completely to 0 C I A C I A ' ie, t h e f i n g e r s p o i n t u p w a r d s

a n d the p a l m s f a c e a w a y f r o m the s i g n e r . T h e o v e r a l l d i r e c t i o n of t h e

m o v e m e n t i s t h e s a m e , s o w h a t is the n a r r a t i v e i m p a c t of t h e c h a n g e ? M y

o w n v i e w is that the c h o i c e of what is essentially G-IIUMAN-CL focuses

d i r e c t l y o n t h e h u m a n - l i k e a c t i v i t i e s of t h e legs. T h e y a r e w a n d e r i n g a r o u n d

a s if t h e y w e r e a n i m a t e b e i n g s , e v e n h u m a n , w h e n they a r e a c t u a l l y b i t s of

iron. Within the space of a f e w seconds, w e h a v e t h e change of orientation

f r o m 'G d o w n ' , w h e r e t h e f o c u s is o n t h e o b j e c t s a s ' l e g - l i k e ' t o 'G u p ' w h e r e


t h e f o c u s is o n t h e objects a s ' h u m a n - l i k e ' . I h a v e absolutely n o d o u b l that

if w e t o o k t h i s l a t t e r f o r m o u t o f c o n t e x t a n d a s k e d p e o p l e t o s u p p l y a

translation, m o s t B S L users would provide something like " t w o people

w a n d e r e d a w a y i n t o t h e distance". (Indeed I h a v e tried this informally, and

w a s given answers very close t o this translation.) T h e impact of this usage

w i t h i n t h e n a r r a t i v e i s t h a t t h e c h o i c e o f w h a t i s in e f f e c t G-HUMAN-CL

focuses o n human-like actions o f non-animate entities. However, in order t o

g i v e a correct interpretation t o this usage w e need t o k n o w

(a) the prototypical u s e of G ;

(b) t h e context which tells u s in this c a s e that t h e signer has j u s t been talking

about disembodied iron legs;

(c) the fact that B S L allows 'innovative reference'.

T h e last point is crucially importantto the operation of BSL classifiers. Thus

w e d o not normally talk about e y e s falling t o the ground with a thud.

H o w e v e r , w h e n t h i s d o e s h a p p e n w i t h T h e I r o n M a n , it is n o t l i n g u i s t i c a l l y

surprising, within the context of B S L , that the signer expresses the action of

a single eye falling by using V \lTA I ( i e , t h e h a n d s h a p e in w h i c h t h e

t h u m b a n d i n d e x f i n g e r a n d m i d d l e f i n g e r a r e e x t e n d e d a n d b e n t ) . T h i s is a

handshape frequently used with reference to round o r spherical objects and

t h e r e f o r e in t h i s s e n s e t h e f o r m i s p r e d i c t a b l e . O f c o u r s e ,w e d o n o t n o r m a l l y

h a n d l e e y e s , s o u s i n g a h a n d l i n g c l a s s i f i e r in s u c h a w a y m e a n s t h a t t h e

s i g n e r i s e x p l o i t i n g a p a r t i c u l a r t y p e o f i m a g e f o r e f f e c t . A s it h a p p e n s , B S L

h a s actually built this into the lexicon,s o that there a r e established B S L signs

which exploit the same image:


E Y E S O U TO N S T A L K S
EYES O U T O N STALKS U V t a ^ T A ^
<
GLANCET O THE LEFT U V T A VTA

SEEING STARS U ^ t a ^ T A * "

T h e predictable classifier used in respect of handling a pen or quill would b e

F o r C - classifiers associated with handling thin o r delicate objects. In a

B S L s t o r y ,T h e W e e p i n g W i l l o w , t h e s i g n e r r e f e r s t o t h e a c t i v i t i e s o f a tiny

elf w h o h a s b e e n h e l p i n g an old fairy-tale writer t o write his last story. W h e n

th e o l d m a n dies, t h e elf finishes the actual writing himself. T h e signer makes


G L A N C ET O T H E L E F T
u s e o f t h e 5 > A grasp (ie, fully open and spread hand changing t o fully

closed fist) f o r both h a n d s to s h o w the action of picking u p ihe pen


_ U ]
0 5X>X 5T>X * a n d standing it o n its e n d . H e then proceeds to show

h o w t h e e l f w i e l d s t h i s ( f o r h i m ) h u g e w r i t i n g i m p l e m e n t . 0 A>_L A<X"* ^

T h i s i s a n o r m a l B S L g r a s p i n g c l a s s i f i e r w i t h i n t h e l a n g u a g e . H o w e v e r , its

u s e in this context allows t h e narrator t o focus on the size relationship

between t h e p e n a n d t h e elf. Within this context it would h a v e been inappro

priate, even ungrammatical, t o use the more typical classifier for the referent

'pen', i.e.the F handshape. T h e language allows us to re-classify the refer


ents according t o the speci fi c perspective t h e signer wishes t o choose. It is
this inherent flexibility which provides" such e n o r m o u s creative p o w e r
within the morphological system, but it is used in an innovative way t o allow
u s to f o c u s o n something extraordinary within the narrative. A s w e might
expect, such innovative use occurs frequently in particular kinds of lan
g u a g e , especially narratives of various k i n d s , e g , a n e c d o t e s , c h i l d r e n ' s
stories, j o k e s , etc. It can also occur in descriptive a n d explanatory language,
should t h e context demand it. O n e of the difficulties of c l a s s i f i e r us a ge f o r
t h e B S L learner is t o c l u e in t o the innovative a s well a s predictable
patterning of classifier usage.

T h e Function of Classifiers 3.13 |


Karlgren (1923) in his account of (Mandarin) Chinese, not e s the elucidative
p o w e r of classifiers:

"...the function of the classifier is to give the hearer a clue to the nature of
the following word, to inform him in advance of the category to which it
belongs, so that he shall be able the more readily to distiguish it from its
homophemes."

Karlgren, 1923, pp34-35

Karlgren points o u t that a combination such a s ' i - s h a n - ' could mean either ' a
s h i r t ' o r a ' m o u n t a i n ' . However, the insertion of the appropriate classifier,
ie, either ' t s o ' meaning ' s i t e ' , or ' k i e n ' meaning 'article of d r e s s ' m a k e s
clear which interpretation is correct. The re is no ambiguity in:
"i tso shan" - ' o n e site m o u n t a i n '
and
"i kien shan" - o n e article s h i r t '
T h e C h i n e s e situation is interesting in a n u m b e r of d i f f e r e n t ways. Histori

cally, the development and widespread u s e of classifiers s e e m s directly


linked t o the processes of phonological simplification within t h e language.
T h i s involved a

"...progressively radical reduction in the overall number of contrasting


syllables and the consequent falling together of many words once phonologi-
cally distinct..."
Norman, 1988, p i 12

Indeed, while Norman regards the use of measures o r c l a s s i f i e r s a s "...one


of the most distinctive characteristics of modern Chinese" h e notes that their
use in Classical times w a s "...the exception rather than the rule." (Norman,
1 9 8 8 , p i 15).

A l t h o u g h t h e u s e of c l a s s i f i e r s w i t h n u m e r a l s m o d i f y i n g n o u n s is n o w

o b l i g a t o r y i n M o d e r n C h i n e s e , t h i s is n o t t h e c a s e in B S L . M o r e o v e r , B S L

d o e s n o t h a v e t h e s a m e p r o b l e m s with r e s p e c t t o h o m o p h e m e s . W h i l e there

i s a s u b s t a n t i a l n u m b e r of p a i r s o r e v e n g r o u p s of s i g n s with identical f o r m s

b u t d i f f e r e n t m e a n i n g s , t h e s e a r e typically d i s a m b i g u a t e d , a s they a r e in

English, through linguistic context. T h u s U N C L E and B A T T E R Y both make

u s e of t h e f o r m u v TA * y e t n o r m a l l y w e would n o t e x p e c t a n y p a r t i c u l a r

d i f f i c u l t y in r e c o g n i s i n g w h i c h m e a n i n g i s i n t e n d e d . T h e B S L version of " m y

t o r c h n e e d s a n e w b a t t e r y " i s h a r d l y likely to b e interpreted a s " m y torch

n e e d s a n e w u n c l e " a n y m o r e t h a n " I h a v e a p a i n in m y s t o m a c h " s u g g e s t s

that I h a v e a p a n e of g l a s s in m y a b d o m e n ! N e v e r t h e l e s s if h o m o - f o r m s d o

c a u s e d i f f i c u l t y , then a c l a s s i f i e r m a y b e o n e of t h e strategies used by the

signer t o clarify the meaning.

In f a c t , if w e l o o k c a r e f u l l y a t B S L t e x t s , w h a t w e s e e m t o f i n d is that within

c e r t a i n s t y l e s o f s i g n i n g , t h e s i g n e r a u t o m a t i c a l l y p r o v i d e s additional i n f o r

m a t i o n t h r o u g h t h e u s e of c l a s s i f i e r s . A t o n e l e v e l , t h e i n f o r m a t i o n s e e m s

r e d u n d a n t : o f t e n w e a l r e a d y k n o w t h e intended r e f e r e n t . H o w e v e r , these

a d d i t i o n a l c l a s s i f i e r s d o n o t s i m p l y e l u c i d a t e ; they p r o v i d e a p a r t i c u l a r kind

of f o c u s . M o s t t y p i c a l l y they h o m e in o n s o m e s p e c i f i c kind of physical

f e a t u r e w h i c h t h e s i g n e r p e r c e i v e s a s directly r e l e v a n t . In o n e e x a m p l e f r o m

a c h i l d r e n ' s s t o r y t h e signer w i s h e d t o f o c u s o n an o p e n w i n d o w . H e used t h e

t r a c i n g s a s s 0 GAA , GJ.A * * , the instrumental classifier form

0 A-LA A-LA * s h o w i n g t h e f a c t that the w i n d o w w a s o p e n and t h e S A S S


O
f o r m CT> X BT< , A ' w h i c h s h o w e d the curtain f l a p p i n g a t the o p e n

w i n d o w . R a t h e r than s i m p l y u s i n g a single ' f r o z e n ' sign f o r W I N D O W , the

s i g n e r p r o v i d e s u s with three d i f f e r e n t i m a g e s of t h e w i n d o w .

In a c o m p a r a b l e e x a m p l e , a l s o f r o m a c h i l d r e n ' s s t o r y , the s i g n e r d e s c r i b e s

a little b e a r b e i n g t r a p p e d b y a c a g e w h i c h is s u s p e n d e d f r o m a t r e e and then

l o w e r e d o v e r t h e b e a r . T h e s i g n e r d o e s a c t u a l l y f i n g e r s p e l l " c a g e " , but

t h e r e a f t e r u s e s a r a n g e of c l a s s i f i e r c o n s t r u c t i o n s t o e x p r e s s n o m i n a l , loca

tive and verbal functions. These include : (u

(THEY P U L L E D (the cage into position) 0 5 T > 5T< *

[HandlingClassifiers: Dynamic Verb]


THE CAGE HUNG SUSPENDED A T THE TOP O F THE TREE
1
Ca x 5 T><
[SASS Classifiers: Locative Descriptive]

T H E C A G E W A S LOWERED O N T O THE BEAR c exx 5 - o x v

[SASS; Inbstrumental Verb + Affected Locative]


#
(THE BEAR F O U N D HIMSELF) BEHIND BARS O a i 0 5ax

[SASS Classifier: Locative]


i
THE BEAR SHOOK THE BARS O F THE CAGE 0 A t > AT<
[Handling Classifier: Dynamic Verb]
T h e c h o i c e of classifer allows re fe re nc e t o b e m a d e t o the c a g e without direct
repetition of the fingerspelled item o r indeed of a n y s pe c i fi c sign f o r m f o r
' c a g e ' . In English, for e x a m p l e , the noun "cage" would h a v e been repeated
in every sentence o r a non-specific pronoun ' i t ' used in its place. In B S L , the
signer is a b l e t o maintain this re fe re nc e through exploiting d i f f e r e n t catego
ries of classifier realising a range of grammatical f u n c t i o n s . T h u s the
classifiers serve n o t simply t o elucidate, but t o provi de varying types of
f o c u s within t h e narrative.

Flexible classification 3.14 f


At t h e beginning of this C h a p t e r , I raised t h e question of t h e extent t o which
t h e categories expressed by classifiers can b e seen a s absolute. It may b e
h e l p f u l h e r e t o p o s e t h e question in a slightly d i f f e r e n t way: h o w inevitable
is t h e link between specific classifier a n d specific referent? Here again, an
examination of the situation in Chinese is instructive. In K a r l g r e n ' s words:

"In the choice of (such) classifiers the Chinese are ingeniously inventive."
Karlgren, 1923,p35

W h a t he seems to mean by this is that the link between a specific classifier


and a particular referent is not always easily predictable. T h u s t h e classifier
" k ' o u " : ' m o u t h ' is used for o b j e c t s with a mouth or round ope ni ng a s in :
' o n e mouth w e l l '
' o n e mouth p o t '
' o n e mouth p i g '
' o n e mouth m a n '
" T ' i a o " is the classifier f o r long narrow o b j e c t s a s in:
'one branch street'
' o n e branch rope'
'one branch leg'
'one branch snake'
'one branch dog'
' o n e branch bench'
W h i l e it may not b e immediately obvious that ' c o o k i n g p o t ' and ' m a n ' , or
' d o g ' and ' s t r e e t ' belong to the s a m e semantic c a t e g o r y , o n c e the classifier
h a s been assigned it is a s if the language user is able to m a k e s e n s e of it. Most
d o g s are longer than they are wide, a s a r e most streets and m o s t benches, s o
that categorisation is not completely odd.

N o r m a n (1988) adds a n interesting historical note to t h e use of "tiao" a s a


c l a s s i f i e r f o r s u c h a b s t r a c t n o t i o n s a s ' m a t t e r s ' , ' a f f a i r s ' , ' i t e m s of b u s i

n e s s ' , e t c . H e p o i n t s o u t t h a t a t o n e t i m e d o c u m e n t s w e r e written o n s l e n d e r

w o o d e n o r b a m b o o strips: ' a n i t e m of n e w s ' w o u l d t h e n literally b e p r e s e n t e d

o n a ' l o n g n a r r o w o b j e c t ' h e n c e t h e suitability o f the ' t i a o ' c l a s s i f e r , e g :

"yi-tiao xinwen"
P r e s u m a b l y , t h e h i s t o r i c al l i n k i s l a r g e l y i r r e l e v a n t t o p r e s e n t d a y u s a g e .

The choice of appropriate classifier has become formalised within the

l a n g u a g e : t h e p h y s i c a l b a s i s o f the c l a s s i f i e r is n o l o n g e r i m p o r t a n t .

W e c a n g e t s o m e s e n s e of t h i s i n t e r p l a y b e t w e e n w h a t w e m i g h t think of a s

t h e p h y s i c a l o r logical b a s i s o f c l a s s i f i e r u s a g e a n d g r a m m a t i c a l u s a g e b y

noting a current tendency within spoken English. T ypically w i t h i n t h e

language, different quantifiers (ie, 'measures' or 'classifiers') modify count

a n d n o n - c o u n t n o u n s . W e t h u s h a v e d i s t i n c t i o n s such a s t h e f o l l o w i n g :

"many pens" "much sugar"

"few apples" "less m i l k "

" a g r e a t n u m b e r of c o i n s " "a l a r g e a m o u n t of m o n e y "

H o w e v e r , a t t h e p r e s e n t t i m e i t i s p o s s i b l e t o o b s e r v e s o m e c h a n g e s in u s a g e .

T h e r e i s q u i t e a s t r o n g t e n d e n c y t o treat n o n - c o u n t n o u n s a s c o u n t a b l e in

c e r t a i n k i n d s of c o n t e x t s : " M a r k s a n d S p e n c e r stock m a n y d i f f e r e n t w i n e s "

( c f , ' k i n d s o f w i n e ' ) , a l t h o u g h s o m e n o u n s a r e m o r e r e s i s t a n t . T h i s s h o p has

t w e n t y d i f f e r e n t b r e a d s ' i s p o s s i b l e b u t n o t likely. H o w e v e r , an a l t e r n a t i v e

t e n d e n c y c a n b e s e e n i n " a l a r g e a m o u n t of p e o p l e a t t e n d e d t h e m a t c h " . T h e

u s e o f " a m o u n t " w i t h " p e o p l e " a p p e a r s t o h a v e b e g u n in colloquial s p e e c h ,

b u t i s now extending to more formal usage - including B B C news bulletins.

W h a t s e e m s t o b e h a p p e n i n g i s t h a t w h a t m a y b e s e e n a s the s e m a n t i c b a s i s

of t h e g r a m m a t i c a l d i s t i n c t i o n i s n o l o n g e r s i g n i f i c a n t f o r the s p e a k e r . T h e

language already allows 'people' to b e viewed as a whole entity:


" a m a s s of p e o p l e "

" crowd of people"

" g a t h e r i n g of p e o p l e "

T h e u s e of t h e n o n - c o u n t a b l e q u a n t i f i e r i s s i m p l y a n e x t e n s i o n of t h i s . S u c h

a n e x a m p l e d e m o n s t r a t e s t h a t d e s p i t e the f a c t that t h e r e f r e q u e n t l y a p p e a r s

t o b e s o m e s e m a n t i c s e n s e t o t h e k i n d s of n o u n c a t e g o r i s a t i o n (and h e n c e ,

c l a s s i f i e r c a t e g o r i s a t i o n ) f o u n d in a p a r t i c u l a r l a n g u a g e , such categorisation

i s r a r e l y a b s o l u t e . S i m i l a r l y , a l t h o u g h t h e s e c a t e g o r i e s m a y b e linked with

w h a t a p p e a r t o b e c o m m o n l y e s t a b l i s h e d criteria f o r c a t e g o r i s a t i o n , o c c u r

r i n g a c r o s s a r a n g e of l a n g u a g e s , s u c h c a t e g o r i e s a r e o f t e n open to m a n i p u

l a t i o n b y t h e s p e a k e r / s i g n e r . T h i s is m o s t cer tainly t h e c a s e in B S L w h e r e

t h e s i g n e r i s a b l e t o r e - c l a s s i f y r e f e r e n t s a c c o r d i n g t o the n e e d s of t h e

discourse. T h u s objects h a v e particular size and shape characteristics, can

b e h a n d l e d o r t o u c h e d in a p a r t i c u l a r w a y a n d s o m e t i m e s h a v e an i n s t r u m e n -
t a l f u n c t i o n T h e c h o i c e of c l a s s i f i e r m a y d e p e n d u p o n a n u m b e r of f a c t o r s .

W i t h i n story t e l l i n g , f o r e x a m p l e , t h e s i g n e r m a y m a n i p u l a t e t h e c l a s s i f i e r

p o s s i b i l i t i e s t o c r e a t e p a r t i c u l a r k i n d s of n a r r a t i v e e f f e c t , w h i l e within

descriptive discourse particular choices may serve a clarifying function.

Implications for word-formation 3.15 H

W h a t d o e s a l l this m e a n then in r e s p e c t o f w o r d f o r m a t i o n w i t h i n t h e

l a n g u a g e ? In f a c t , t h e a n s w e r is q u i t e c o m p l e x . T h i s i s b e c a u s e , g i v e n t h e

k i n d o f f l e x i b i l i t y r e f e r r e d t o a b o v e , t h e distinction b e t w e e n ' n e w ' a n d ' e s

t a b l i s h e d ' u s a g e i s n o t par ticularly e a s y t o d r a w . If a s i g n e r u s e s an A h a n d

classifier within an enclosed C hand and performs a short downward move-

n e n t t o r e f e r t o the e m e r g e n c e of a b a b y ' s h e a d d u r i n g c h i l d b i r t h , t h i s i s n o t

' n e w ' u s a g e , b u t a n a p p r o p r i a t e o p e r a t i o n of e s t a b l i s h e d c l a s s i f i e r s . T h i s

t y p e of p r o d u c t i v e u s a g e is a l w a y s a v a i l a b l e t o t h e s i g n e r . T h i s o n g o i n g

p r o c e s s c a n b e d e s c r i b e d in v a r i o u s w a y s . In chapter five, I provide

e x a m p l e s u n d e r the h e a d i n g of " m i x 'n' m a t c h " . T h e s i g n e r is a b l e t o s e l e c t

the appropriate meaningful element, which may b e a classifier, and match

this with other meaningful elements to produce a combination which may

n e v e r h a v e b e e n used b e f o r e , b u t w h i c h i s i m m e d i a t e l y u n d e r s t a n d a b l e . In

this r e s p e c t , t h e lexicon i s m o r e c o m p a r a b l e t o the s y n t a c t i c c o m p o n e n t of

g r a m m a r than m a y h a v e b e e n realised. H o w e v e r , a s will b e d e m o n s t r a t e d in

c h a p t e r six ( s e e e s p e c i a l l y p a g e 179), t h e s i g n e r m a y w o r k t o w a r d s t h e p r o

d u c t i o n o f a n e w f o r m f o r the e s t a b l i s h e d lexicon b y a k i n d of r e f i n i n g d o w n

of t h e r e f e r e n t i a l p r o c e s s . I n d e e d this r e f i n i n g d o w n c a n b e s e e n a s o p e r a t i n g

a c r o s s t h e c o m m u n i t y of s i g n e r s a n d c a n b e o b s e r v e d in r e l a t i o n t o n e w l y

d e v e l o p e d i t e m s , f o r e x a m p l e in r e s p e c t of n e w g a d g e t s . C u r r e n t l y , f o r

e x a m p l e , t h e r e a r e v a r i o u s s i g n s in u s e t o r e f e r to a m o b i l e p h o n e . M o s t of

t h e s e s i g n s e x p l o i t a t least o n e h a n d l i n g c l a s s i f i e r , typically an E t o i n d i c a t e

t h e h a n d l i n g of t h e h a n d set. O n e o p t i o n u s e s an F h a n d t o i n d i c a t e t h e

e x t e n d i n g of t h e aer ial a n d s o m e v e r s i o n s t h e n u s e a C t i p o r 5 t i p t o u c h

c l a s s i f i e r t o i n d i c a t e t h e p r e s s i n g of t h e n u m b e r s . A s e q u e n t i a l c o m p o u n d

f o r m e x p l o i t s o n e o r m o r e of t h e s e p o s s i b i l i t i e s in t h e f i r s t p a r t a n d then

p l a c e s t h e l e f t h a n d at t h e e a r to s i m u l a t e t h e r e a l - l i f e l i s t e n i n g a c t i o n . T h e

illustration o n the l e f t s h o w s o n e r e s u l t of t h e k i n d of r e f i n i n g d o w n p r o c e s s

m e n t i o n e d a b o v e . W e h a v e in e f f e c t t h r e e e m e a n i n g f u l c o m p o n e n t s , loca

tion a t t h e e a r a n d t w o h a n d l i n g c l a s s i f i e r s , all o p e r a t i n g s i m u l t a n e o u s l y .

S u c h a c o m p r e s s e d version m a y well b e c o m e t h e e s t a b l i s h e d sign M O B I L E

P H O N E , w h i l e still a l l o w i n g t h e p r o d u c t i v e u s e s of the o t h e r c l a s s i f i e r s . A

d e t a i l e d listing of c l a s s i f i e r o p t i o n s w i t h i n B S L is g i v e n o n t h e f o l l o w i n g

pages, thus demonstrating the enormous creative potential available.

MOBILE PHONE
touch extent

round / spherical grasping long object with round imitation of action


A object: narrow cylindrical o r solid base: a s in:
HEAD, FOOTBALL, OBJECT: P O L E , POSS STICK, PESTLE KNOCK, TAP, HIT,

HOOVES SPEAR, PRISON BARS POUND

compact / solid, holding handle

not necessarily

round, object:

JAWS O F HIPPO CASE, MUG,

CUPBOARD HANDLES

grasping long cy

lindrical objects

(often used when

more control re

quired than f o r

A ) :

HAMMER,

SCREWDRIVER

grasping small

finely controlled

objects:
KEY,

MAGNIFYING GLASS

compact mass thumb represent- touching very separating action


with single salient ing a blade: small object or showing width o r
e x t e n s i o n : (rarely area: height:
used)
OIL CAN SCULPT, SURGERY, DOOR BELL, LARGE, HIGH,

VINEGAR BOTTLE SHAVE, STICKING PLASTER MASSIVE

POTATO PEELER,

MURDER
SASS handling instrumental

(rare) (rare)

closed fingers may pressing small

s u g g e s t h o l d i n g of area t o operate a

object: lighter
LIGHTER

curved cylindrical one-handed: one-handed:


object: handling cylindri showing thick
M U G , GLASS c a l object: extent:
GLASS, M U G , CAN WAD O F NOTES,

c h u n k , e . g . of t e x t : THICK SOLES

PARAGRAPH two-handed:
S E T GIRDER IN two-handed:
huge columnar PLACE , s h o w i n g e x t e n t of
BLOCKS O F FLATS, PILE U P LOGS e t C . cylindrical /
BUILDINGS oblong objects:
HUGE BUS,

two-handed: HUGE PILLAR

LOG, PIPE, COLUMN,

PILLAR showing extent of

pile of cylindrical

objects

round / cylindrical holding longish two-handed


object: focus o n cylindrical object s h o w i n g e x t e n t of
perimeter of (especially in ex cylindrical object
circle: amples where a LONG ROD

HOLE, LENS throwing action is

involved and the

hand opens t o 5):


JAVELIN, POLE

SPEAR e t c .

hold object tightly


o r firmly DOMI

NOES NAILBRUSH
SASS handling instrumental touch extent

flat, longer t h a n h o l d flat, o r flat flat blade: STROKE, e g : either side t o s i d e


w i d e smooth sided object: SAW, AXE, a ni ma l , hair, b o d y - showing length;
surface: TRAY GUILLOTINE PAT, eg: o r u p and down -
GROUND, PAPER, h e a d , shoulder. s h o w i n g height,
TABLE, FOOT / h o l d p i l e of f l a t - bottom particularly
FEET, WING(S) ish objects: RUB, eg: cream relating t o piles of
BOOKS, TOWELS, into c h e e k s , s o r e f l a t items;
n.b. An extremely VIDEOTAPES k n e e etc. a l s o in more g e n
productive classi eral notions of
fier occurring in a amount:
number of key HUGE AMOUNT O F

paradigms M O N E Y , BIG P I L E O F

BOOKS

flat o b j e c t w i t h hold something bent / c u r v e d : TAP (e.g. o n


B some bending: small, soft o r shoulder)
delicate: SCRAPE (e.g. with
SAIL, PLOUGH, SMALL ANIMAL, BLADE, PLOUGH, paws)
MECHANICAL HOLDING WATER EXCAVATOR

EXCAVATOR

This handshape is not included in the second edition of 'Words in Hand' (Brennan et al., 1984), but
B should be added to any inventory of BSL handshapes. Like B, it is bent at the major knuckles, but
also involves bending at the finger joints. However, unlike C which has similar bending, the thumb
is held firmly against the hand and index finger edge and is bent in accord with the overall bend
ing of the hand.

r o u n d / spherical hold, o r p a s s indicating e x t e n t


object: around a r o u n d of round/spherical
object: SCRAPE WITH PAWS object:
CHINESE TEA CUP, PASS A B O W L LARGE BOWL

BOWL, END O F

LADLE, NEST, BALL


SASS handling instrumental

f l a t , triangular hold flat or flat-


shaped o b j e c t ; tish item: B
p o i n t e d object: COMPUTER DISK

BEAK (Cf. gOOSe) PAPER

FRISBEE

narrow o r shallow one-handed: m a y b e used t o


f l a t objects: h a n d l e shallow show e x t e n t a n d B
BORDER, flat-ish o b j e c t s : thickness of flat-
(e.g. wallpaper) BOOK, VIDEOTAPE ish o b j e c t s :
LAYER, ( e . g . c u s FOLDED LINEN, FILE LONG PLANK

tard o n trifle) WIDE COLUMN

CHUNKS, e . g . o f two-handed:
writing, as in handle longish
paragraphs and shallow objects:
columns PLANKS, SHELVES

RIM, e.g. of c o n
tainer

hinged objects
with t w o parallel
flat surfaces:
BEAK

(very productive) h a n d l e l a r g e m a s s : tool with m a n y s h o w i n g e x t e n t of


m a n y long th in L A R G E BOX, extensions: large-ish o b j e c t s : 5
things; m a s s w i t h A BODY GARDEN FORK

m a n y thin e x t e n
sions: hold/carry a p i l e s h o w i n g rising of
PORCUPINE, of f l a t items: water:
HEDGEHOG, TOWELS, TRAYS e t C . FLOODS

PUNK HAIRSTYLE,

BIG EYELASHES, s h o w i n g s pre a d


BRANCHES, i n g : SPREAD

STRIPES, LINES,

RIVULETS, LIQUID
touch extent

many long bent one-handed: MECHANICAL GRAB- t o u c h w i t h f i n g e r s : s h o w i n g e x t e n t of

5 thin things: holding round / BER SCRATCH large round /

FINGERS, CLAWS, spherical things: spherical objects,

SPIDER, CRAB, JAR LID, ROUND t o u c h i n g sticky o r o r o b j e c t o f i n d e -

SCARS DIAL, doughy substances terminate shape


LARGE HANDLES, (wriggling o r LARGE AUBERGINE

LARGE TAPS, flexing move


HEADPHONES ment):

STICKY

two-handed:

holding large

spherical objects
FOOTBALL, GLOBE

manipulating

cubes:

RUBIC CUBE

Again this handshape is not included in the 1984 'Words in Hand' (Brennan et al., 1984) inventory.
5 The hand is bent at the major knuckles, but the fingers themselves are held taut and straight. This

handshape tends to be used when the firmness or tautness of an object is focused upon.

item with salient hold large spheri-

long extensions: cal object with

CAGE, TENT some firmness

cone shaped

objects
SNOUT

S t i p Here it is the tips of the fingers which are salient - seemingly representing pin-points, e.g. the many

eyes of a crowd: EYES ; the toes of many people standing on tip-toe: TIP-TOE

small round h o l d thin f l a t indicating extent

object: object o r small, of l o n g thin thing:


narrow delicate WIRE, STRING,

object: MEASURING TAPE

COIN, HOLE PAPER, PIN, EAR indicating extent


RING, STRING, TEA of long cylindrical

BAG things:
LONG POLE [87]
SASS handling instrumental

touch small area,

touch small area

with delicacy:

WRIST ( f o r pulse)

CLITORIS

hold, locate, pick

u p thin f l a t o r thin

narrow object with

s o m e delicacy,e.g.
ITEMS O F

JEWELLERY

(rarely used)

long thin objects, long narrow

long thin cylindri


cal objects:
instruments;
stirring i n s t r u

L E G ( S ) , CIGARETTE, ments:
S '
PENCIL, LOG, SPURTLE,

PILLAR, CHOPSTICKS,

TUBE-TRAIN SHARP BLADE

used f o r tracing
shapes in space
SQUARE

RECTANGLE

CRACK

ie. fingertip is salient (cf Supalla, 1985)

touch very small G tip


seeing objects of balance item on area, push button:

S' varying shapes o r t i p of f i n g e r ( e . g . PUSH BUTTON

sizes a s mere i n SPINNING) RADIO,

specks o r points: PRESS TELEPHONE

BALL, MISSILE NUMBERS, DIAL

prod a person o r

animal:
PROD

POKE
touch extent

l o n g th i n t h i n g s rarely used: handling and instrumental


with o n e salient combined in rare examples such as
extension a t right HYPERDERMIC NEEDLE

angles:
GUN

l o n g th i n c u r v e d / hold stretchable

bent object: item:


BENT PERSON, ELASTIC

BENT LEG(S),

RAT'S TAIL, HOOK, hold b y hook-like

HANGER, extension
HOOKED NOSE,

HOOKED BEAK e t C .

round o r rounded
object:

EYE-BROW, CURL,

C U R L Y HAIR

hinged object with handle shallow/ one-handed: g-rT<lN'


t w o parallel flat flat objects: s h o w t h i c k n e s s of
surfaces: PAPER, THIN objects
BEAK ( c f . BIRD) BOOKS, AUDIO-TAPE

two-handed:
flat n a r r o w o r showing extent,

shallow objects: including length


alternative to t o and thickness of
stress narrowness: relatively shallow
BORDER, LAYER, flat objects
CHUNK, RIM

(see p . 86)
mary brennan word formation in B S L

SASS handling instrumental

triangular-shaped
i handling small
extension: flat-ish o b j e c t :
CLOSED BEAK AUDIO-TAPE, CA RD

BOARD

s o m e t i m e s used a s
alternative to F
f o r j e w e l l e r y etc.
(see p . 8 7 )

/ r ^ x ^ ^ - ^ f l a t round object, 2-handed: e x t e n t of cylindri

cylindrical o b j e c t , locating / l i f t i n g a c a l o b j e c t ; indicat


column: e.g. cylindrical object: i n g extent of lines,
PILLAR, e . g . ROD o f s o m e stripes, b a r s etc.
COLUMN (of print) kind
indicating narrow
stripes:
STRIPED

(rare>
xgbV - indicating t h e
s h a p e and h a n
dling of a g u n
holding very f i n e
instrument:
P E N , SCALPEL

straight narrow s h a r p f l a t instru length / height of


object(s); narrow ment: narrow area o r
flat surface object:

BED, BENCH, KNIFE, SLICER, NARROW CORRIDOR,

NARROW TABLE NARROW BRUSH NARROW SPIRE

L E G S / PAWS e . g . O f

dog / cat etc.

S 3 _ U ^ i n d i c a t i n g the
s h a p e a n d han
d l i n g of a g u n
SSSSiSSS

instrumental touch extent

bent, narrow

H object:
BENT LEGS

narrow or shallow hold small flat indicating length


flat objects (cf. item: of f l a t - i s h o b j e c t
H
a n d AUDIO-TAPE e t c .

BORDER, LAYER,

CHUNK, RIM

hinged object:
DUCK'S BEAK

flat, triangular holding small flat-


H shaped object; ish object: | T

pointed object (cf. AUDIO-TAPE,

G a n d B ) CREDIT CARD,

CLOSED BEAK ( c f PASSPORT e t C .

duck)

o b j e c t with t w o instrument with

narrow fixed two narrow exten

extensions: sions:

SCISSORS, LEGS SCISSORS, TONGS

pairs of items,
2-ness:
EYES

t r a c i n g of n a r r o w
stripes (cf. POLICE)

t w o long thin bent instrument with

extensions: two narrow exten

BENT LEGS, sions:

QUOTATION MARKS, CLAW HAMMER,

CLAWS DOUBLE HOOK


#mmsm
SASS handling instrumental touch extent

round/spherical holding round/ MECHANICAL CLAW

object: spherical object: V


LARGE RING, S W E L - SMALL BALL,

LING, BUMP BUTTON, BADGE,

EVE (metaphorical)

long thin bent

extensions:
CLAW

long crossed

extension:
PLAITS, BRAIDS

three / several
long extensions: w
TOASTING FORK

tracing of narrow
stripes (cf. SER

GEANT)

three / several

bent extensions: w
CLAWS

flat surface:
SLEIGH, TABLE Wm
(compare B and

H )

small thin object:


S V
"SMALL PENIS e x t e n t of f l a t
instrumental touch extent

m a s s with t w o material o r area:


salient extensions: CARDBOARD,

AEROPLANE, FOOTBALL P I T C H

T E A P O T , HEAD W I T H

HORNS

item with t w o
V salient parallel
extensions:
GOAL POSTS,

T . V . AERIAL

m a s s w i t h three
salient extensions:
SUBMARINE

pointed s h a p e with
t w o salient
extensions:
ANIMAL

l o n g thin thing -
s o m e t i m e s used a s
an alternative t o G
(rare):
P O S T , P O L E , HORN
chapter 4
prototypical metaphors
in BSL
"Metaphor is a tool so ordinary that we use it unconciously and automatically,
with so little effort that we hardly notice it"
Lakoff and Turner, 1984, pxi

96 14.01 formational expression of metaphors


9 7 ^[4.02 the EMANATE I EMIT set of metaphors
102 f 4.03 creative uses of the EMANATE morpheme
104 14.04 the GRASP set of metaphors
106 H 4 . 0 5 GIVE UP

106 1 4 . 0 6 the COPY I ABSORB set of metaphors


H O H 4 . 0 7 t h e DROWN, MELT, DISAPPEAR, SUCK

set of metaphors
112 14.08 the POSITIONAL set of metaphors
112 14.09 expression of spatial relationships in BSL
114 14.10 the STATUS set of metaphors
~117 f 4. 1 1 t h e SEPARATE a n d TOGETHER

sets of metaphors
118 1 4 . 1 2 the OPPOSITION set of metaphors
120 14.13 the INTERACTION set of metaphors
121 1 4 . 1 4 the DEFINITE versus INDEFINITE

set of metaphors
1 2 4
14.15 productive role of metaphor
O n e of t h e m a j o r claims within t h i s a c c o u n t of produc t i ve morphology i n
B S L i s that w h i l e classifiers p l a y an i m p o r t a n t a n d o f t e n c o m p l e x r o l e within
morphological patterning, o t h e r productive e l e m e n t s a l s o exist within t h e
language. T h e s e a r e essentially metaphorical in n a t u r e a n d a r e c a p a b l e of
interacting w i t h other e l e m e n t s i n t h e language, including classifiers, t o
p r o d u c e n e w lexical i t e m s . I t h a s b e e n a r g u e d b y B o y e s - B r a e m (1981) a n d
W i l b u r (1990) that m a n y classifiers a r e t he ms e l ve s metaphors. In o r d e r t o

O -> 5 handshape pair e x a m i n e such a c l a i m , it is necessary t o provi de detailed e x a m p l e s of


metaphors in B S L , especially a s n o such account h a s previously been
available. W h i l e t h e f o l l o w i n g p a g e s w i l l provide n u m e r o u s e x a m p l e s of
m e t a p h o r sets and realisations within t h e language, this r e m a i n s only an
indication of the extent of metaphor in t h e language. H o w e v e r , such e x
a m p l e s will provide a solid basis f o r analysing t h e interaction between these
a n d other productive f o r m s i n the language.
In Chapter T w o , it w a s suggested that it is possible t o s p e c i f y prototypical

A -> 5 handshape pair e x a m p l e s of B S L m e t a p h o r s , in a m a n n e r c o m p a r a b l e t o that developed by


P e n n y Boyes-Braem f o r A S L . In this c h a p t e r , I shall p r e s e n t a n account of
such prototypes, together with illustrative signs both f r o m t h e established
lexicon of B S L a n d f r o m productive usage. In later chapters, I shall explore
t h e interaction of such m e t a p h o r s with classifiers a n d their operation within
specific derivational proce s s e s in the language.

Formational expression of metaphors 4.01 H


Within t h e Boyes-Braem a c c o u n t , considerable attention is focused on t h e
h a n d s h a p e parameter. It i s clear f r o m a n examination of these examples that
m a n y of them would constitute c l a s s i fi e rs , especially size and shape a n d
handling classifiers. A s n u m e r o u s e x a m p l e s of classifier types have already
been given in Chapter 3 , 1 will f o c u s h e r e primarily o n m o v e m e n t , both hand
internal m o v e m e n t and overall directional m o v e m e n t . Boyes-Braem also
recognises that m o v e m e n t can b e used t o express m e t a p h o r s . S h e provides a
discussion of opening a n d c l os i ng handshapes within A S L in which s h e rec
ognises t h e importance of m o v e m e n t :

"For some signs marked with an opening movement (DASL Notation ) ,the
movement rather than the handshape seems to carry most of the metaphori
cal meaning."
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p207

In B S L , it i s also clearly the c a s e that ope ni ng a n d closing actions carry


s p e c i f i c types of metaphorical m e a n i n g . H o w e v e r , a c l o s e look a t B S L
e x a m p l e s suggests that m o v e m e n t is crucial t o t h e expression of underlying
metaphors in a w i d e r r a n g e of signs than m i g h t b e anticipated. In m a n y signs
t h e m o v e m e n t i s t h e primary exponent of t h e metaphor: in others it interacts
with t h e other p a r a m e t e r s t o g i v e f u l l expression t o t h e underlying me t a phor.
Boyes-Braem n o t e s that:

" ...the symbolization connected with the opening movement usually is that
of 'spreading' or, in the case of some intensified spritzed opening move
ments, of 'rejection' or 'pushing away'."
Boyes-Braem, 1981, p208

T h i s ' s p r e a d i n g ' metaphor contrasts with t h e symbolisation involved in


closing h a n d s h a p e s w h i c h , Boyes-Braem suggests,

"...represent either something big going to small or a grasping movement."


Boyes-Braem, 1981, p211

T h i s b a s i c c o n t r a s t i s a l s o exploited in B S L , although it is possible t o s p e c i f y


several d i f f e r e n t underlying m e t a p h o r s in respect of both types. I t m a y b e
u s e f u l t o f o c u s initially on t h e metaphor sets in B S L which a r e expressed b y
t h e opening action of the closed hand. T h e s e metaphor sets will b e discussed
i n rather m o r e detail than later sets in order t o c l a r i f y both the notion of
m e t a p h o r itself a n d t h e recurring m o r p h e m i c e l e m e n t s which e x p r e s s meta
phors.

LIGHT
f 4.02 T h e E M A N A T E / E M I T set of metaphors
L e t u s look firstly at a set of signs which all m a k e u s e of the s a m e m o r p h e m e
which w e can label EMANATE. This is most typically realised by the closed
hand o pening. In a f e w cases, w e are dealing with the f u l l y closed A (fist)
hand opening t o a f u l l y open 5 ( f l a t h a n d , f i n g e r s spread). In m o s t e xa mpl e s ,
t h e closed version is s o m e w h a t looser - a s in t h e O handshape - o r it involves
contact between o n e o r m o r e bent f i n g e r s a n d the t h u m b a s in the handshapes
fi a n d . T h i s action of the o p e n i n g a n d spreading of t h e hand and fingers
realises a visual m e t a p h o r which expresses meanings linked with the idea of
' e m a n a t i n g ' ; ' s e n d i n g f o r t h ' . Signs which exploit this underlying metaphor
include: []

SUN * AT>xd[,] SPEND B Q.> X OAI"


L I G H T ( S ) C O-O_LD[,] B O M B O O ^ I S [ I ]

[,] M
SEND 0o_LA STRIKE 0 Ox>x O-ox
S [J
[ 3
TRANSMIT 0 G T > X O X A , ' BLOOD O C T A * / O .

MAGIC 0 OXA OXA T ' ] T PERIOD WOXJX"1- x[>]

1 1 SPEND
PROGRAMME (TV)G-r< X OXA," ' DISCHARGE B a x O^ox
r i i[, ]
EMIT 0OOL<1,3 E J A C U L A T I O N C >XF X O"o<
SHOUT oOj.A['3 MICROWAVE 0 o > x 0<j. gl
" ]

M
FLOW 0 O x A DISHWASHER 00 a j . 0x>x ^
A t o n e level, it may seem v e r y o d d t o s ugge s t that such m e a n i n g s a s ' m a g i c ' ,
' T V p r o g r a m m e ' , ' s h o u t ' , ' s u n ' a n d ' m i c r o w a v e o v e n ' h a v e anything obvi
ous in common. Certainly if w e a p p l i e d a traditional semantic f e a t u r e
analysis, it w o u l d b e d i f f i c u l t t o s e e h o w t h e y c oul d b e placed in t h e s a m e
semantic category. Similarly, t h e p h y s i c a l f e a t u r e s c o m m o n l y associated
with classifiers, such a s size a n d s h a p e f e a t u r e s , a r e n o t relevant in respect
of such varied meanings. N e v e r t h e l e s s , t h e r e is a u n i f y i n g f e a t u r e : all of t h e
signs m a k e u s e of t h e s a m e m o r p h e m e w h i c h i s in turn based upon a n
underlying visual metaphor. T h e central m e t a p h o r involved c a n b e s t b e
described b y using t h e English w o r d s "emanate" a n d "emit". T h e associated
m e a n i n g s a r e closely linked: "emanate" derives f r o m t h e Latin "mano", t o
f l o w a n d "emano e m a n t u m " , to f l o w o u t . Webster gi ve s the definition as:

"To flow forth; to proceed from something as the source, fountain or


origin ...to give forth, to discharge."
Webster, 1977

"Emit" h a s closely related meanings:

"... to flow or give out, as light, heat steam; to send forth; to put forth; to
voice, to utter a sound."
FLOODLIGHTS
Webster, 1977

It is fascinating t o observe that B S L translations of e a c h of t h e English v e r b s


a b o v e (ie," f l o w f o r t h " , "send f o r t h " , etc) would exploit t h e s a m e ope ni ng
hand a c t i o n . T h e closed handshape c a n b e seen as representing t h e source of
p o w e r , light, e n e r g y , e t c ; t h e ope ni ng a c t i o n , t h e g i v i n g f o r t h of that power
a n d t h e spread h a n d , t h e actual spreading o u t of t h e p o w e r . It a p p e a r s that in
this particular c a s e , t h e v i s u a l metaphor is partially mot i va t e d b y t h e physi
c a l reality of t h e s u n . T h e closed h a n d s h a p e symbolises t h e source of heat,
light, p o w e r , etc; t h e o p e n i n g action symbolises t h e r e l e a s e o f this energy
a n d t h e spreading of the f i n g e r s suggests t h e idea of r a y s of light, p o w e r , e t c ,
extending o u t f r o m t h e source. T h e s a m e m o r p h e m e expressing this meta
p h o r is then exploited in a w h o l e r a n g e of signs. T h e L I G H T pa ra di gm is p a r
ticularly productive. T h e visual expression of t h e b a s i c m e t a p h o r , i e , t h e
O -> 5 action is located appropriately f o r t h e d i f f e r e n t m e a n i n g s a n d t w o
h a n d s m a y b e used if t h e m e a n i n g requires this (eg, in H E A D L I G H T S ) .
HEADLIGHTS
E x a m p l e s include:
[98]
J O"o<
[.]
ROOM LIGHT
; [>]
TABLE LAMP y Bx X J 0<A'
( [.] )
TRAFFIC LIGHTS 0 O T /

HEADLIGHTS 0 OXA OXA D


FLOODLIGHTS * ATOX A'OX D [ , , ]

STREET LAMP C J Ox><


t.]
D 1

A repetition o f t h e o p e n i n g a n d c l o s i n g a c tion a l l o w s t h e e xpressi on of t h e


notion of i n t e r m i t t e n t light o r f l a s h i n g l i g h t s a s in: u [,].
LIGHTHOUSE B^> x J ' OXA 5
BUOY 0 OXA
D[ , ]
FLASHING DOORBELL 0 OTA *
D[ , ]
POLICE CAR/AMBULANCE B-ox l x 0<A '
If s m a l l e r l i g h t s a r e b e i n g r e f e r r e d t o o r if lights a r e seen f r o m a d i s t a n c e ,
then t h e initial h a n d s h a p e w o u l d nor m a lly b e c h a n g e d t o H : ie, t h e index
f i n g e r a n d m i d d l e f i n g e r s a r e b e n t a n d t h e na ils a r e h e l d a g a i n s t t h e b a l l of
the bent thumb. This handshape would b e used for:
xtw] LIGHTHOUSE
H
AIRPORT LANDING LIGHTS 0 la x la x
[w].
AEROPLANE TAIL LIGHTS C ITV H TV
[vv]
DISTANT LIGHTS 0 ATA , ITA *

CAR WARNING SIDELIGHTS 0 HTV HTV a [vv]

T h e c o m m o n m e a n i n g a p p e a r s t o b e that o f ' e m a n a t i n g ' o r ' e m i t t i n g ' . T h i s


d
i s seen in t h e B S L sign S E N D 0 OXA , which makes u s e of the same
basic movement pattern a s LIGHT, b u t with the palm facing away from the
/ * ^
b o d y . T w o c l o s e l y rel ate d s i g n s , T R A N S M I T 0 GT> X OXA, a nd
D
G T <
[.]
TV PROGRAMME X OXA, u s e this m e t a p h o r t o i n d i c a t e t h e
' t r a n s m i s s i o n ' o r ' s e n d i n g f o r t h ' of television signals. It i s w o r t h not i ng
h e r e t h e p o w e r o f t h e u n d e r l y i n g m e t a p h o r in m a k i n g a distinction w h i c h is
n o t p r e s e n t , f o r e x a m p l e , in E n g l i s h . W i t h i n t h e E nglis h l a n g u a g e , w e u s e
t h e s a m e w o r d " p r o g r a m m e " , w h e t h e r w e a r e r e f e r r i n g t o a theatre p r o
g r a m m e , a c o n c e r t p r o g r a m m e o r a T V p r o g r a m m e . In B S L , t h e s a m e sign is
( T )
u s e d f o r the f i r s t t w o , b u t n o t t h e third. B S L u s e s t h e f o r m B t a A^OX, v
( ? )

o r 0 ATOX * f o r written p r o g r a m m e s , o r inde e d any p r o g r a m m e w h i c h iipl
TV PROGRAMME
s u g g e s t s a s e q u e n c e o f e v e n t s . T h e s e a r e deictic s i g n s w h i c h u s e the t o
i n d i c a t e o r p o i n t t o a s s u m e d i t e m s in s e q u e n c e . A television p r o g r a m m e
physically i n v o l v e s t h e c o n v e r s i o n o f light r a y s t o electrical w a v e s a n d i t i s
t h e visual m e t a p h o r of ' s e n d i n g o u t ' o r ' s p r e a d i n g ' w h i c h i s s e e n a s p a r a
mount. The EMIT m o r p h e m e i s also used if the signer wishes t o indicate that
s o m e t h i n g h a s a p p e a r e d o n a screen a s i n
APPEAR O N T V 0 OTA [ , ]
( ) []
O V E R H E A D P R O J E C T O R ( p r e s e n t e r ' s p e r s p e c t i v e ) C o OTA Z
C)M
O V E R H E A D PROJECTOR (viewer's perspective) . 0 OXA
I t i s n o t o n l y emission of light which c a n b e expressed through the EMIT

morpheme. Sound and noise can also b e shown in the s a m e w a y . O n e B S L

sign meaning ' s c r e a m ' i n v o l v e s a n o p e n i n g a c t i o n a t t h e m o u t h , typically

u s i n g t h e O > 5 c o n f i g u r a t i o n . T h e m e a n i n g of b l a s t i n g t h e e a r w i t h n o i s e

w o u l d t y p i c a l l y b e s h o w n b y u s i n g a f o r m of t h e s a m e a c t i o n m o v i n g

r e p e a t e d l y t o w a r d s t h e e a r (such a f o r m w o u l d b e u s e d t o e x p r e s s t h e i d e a of

incessant nagging):

SCREAM
< [*]
3
BLAST EAR WITH NOISE 0<A

Emission of other types of energy can also b e expressed by the same

m e t a p h o r . T h u s t h e r e l a t i v e l y n e w sign M I C R O W A V E O V E N u s e s t w o

O h a n d s h e l d o p p o s i t e e a c h o t h e r at e i t h e r s i d e of t h e b o d y : t h e h a n d s t h e n
X [,]
move towards each other, opening to two 5 hands 0 O>A OT>X D

T h e p h y s i c a l a c t i o n s u g g e s t s t h e e m i s s i o n o f e l e c t r o - m a g n e t i c w a v e s . In t h e

c r e a t i o n of s u c h n e w s i g n s f o r o b j e c t s , s i g n e r s h a v e a v a i l a b l e a w h o l e set o f

options. Obviously microwave ovens also have specific physical features,

e g , they a r e usually box-like and rectangular in shape, h a v e a door which

o p e n s t o w a r d s the b o d y a n d o f t e n c o n t a i n a c i r c u l a r t u r n t a b l e . A n y o n e of

t h e s e f e a t u r e s c o u l d h a v e b e e n u s e d a s t h e b a s i s of a n e w f o r m u s i n g e x i s t i n g

c l a s s i f i e r c o n s t r u c t i o n s . I n d e e d , in s o m e v e r s i o n s , s u c h c l a s s i f i e r c o n s t r u c

t i o n s a r e u s e d . H o w e v e r , t h e m o s t w i d e l y u s e d sign n o w a p p e a r s t o b e t h e

o n e w h i c h exploits the EMANATE/EMIT metaphor.


D I S H W A S H E R u s e s a s i m i l a r sign b u t t h e h a n d s a r e p l a c e d o n e a b o v e t h e

o t h e r a n d t h e e m i s s i o n c o n c e r n e d is that of w a t e r . In f a c t , t h e s a m e a c t i o n

i s u s e d i n a w h o l e r a n g e of s i g n s t o r e f e r t o t h e d i s c h a r g e of l i q u i d . E x a m p l e s

include:
DISHWASHER 0 O A I O W J 1
' 1

D
SHOWER * oxx W

DISCHARGE Ba i ONJ.
EJACULATION c > x t / O T X [ , ]

T h e r e a r e s e v e r a l r e l a t e d s i g n s m e a n i n g ' m a g i c ' o r ' m a g i c i a n ' w h i c h all seem

t o e x p l o i t t h e i m a g e of t h e h a n d s 'giving o u t ' o r ' e m i t t i n g ' r a y s of m a g i c a l


DISCHARGE
power. In comic books this is sometimes actually shown a s lines coming out

f r o m t h e e x t e n d e d f i n g e r s . T h i s i s e c h o e d in t h e sign f o r m :
TM x '
MAGIC 0 o x A OXA

Other signs exploiting the same morpheme all involve s o m e type of emis

sion, such a s shock waves, smoke and fumes:


y [.]
D
BOMB C 0"ox
SHELL 0 O a x [ , ]
M
EXPLOSION 0 O "ox OT>X
EJACULATION
CHIMNEY OT> x Oax[,]
chapter four prototypical metaphors in BSL

s 11
CAREXHAUST O t v

S o f a r , we have focused on what can b e seen a s the central phonological


device f o r the expression of this metaphor, ie, the O -> 5 opening action.
However, as suggested earlier, other expressions of the metaphor are avail
able in the language. These typically involve some refinement or amend
ment of the original metaphor.
T h e use of fi as the starting handshape and ^ as the final handshape
usually suggests some change of perspective or focus. T h e source is viewed
a s relatively small and/or the emission as more narrowly channelled. The
change in size may b e linked to actual size or to the viewer's/signer's
perspective. Thus the small reflector lights used in the U K to mark the central
line on roads (known in British English a s " c a t ' s eyes") would be expressed
through the use of the fi -> 7 action. These lights are clearly physically
very small compared with, say, traffic lights or headlights. However, when
headlights appear as small lights in the distance then they will also normally
be signed using -> 7 rather than O -> 5 . The BSL signs STAR and
STARS also make use of the smaller handshapes because typically stars
appear to us a s small twinkling lights in the sky. T h e twinkling element is
shown b y the repetition of the opening movement.
STAR ^ l-ox D ['] "
S t
STARS * fi-ox fl. ']"'
The same handshape pair would b e used in GAS JETS (oven)
GAS J E T 0 i<xxD[,]
Although again the O -> 5 pair can be used if the JETS are f u l l on or
-> G handshape pair
viewed as particularly large. Either the A -> 7 pair or the -> pair
can b e used to show a narrower emission of water, liquid gas, etc, eg, water
from a tap. By adapting the movement slightly w e can express two further
notions: ' s p u r t ' and ' d r i p ' . If water comes out in spurts, then normally the
H -V pair would be used but the action would be repeated a t irregular
intervals. In ' t a p dripping' the flow of water is greatly reduced, so the single
finger is used. Again the repeated action echoes the repeated emission of
water
WATER SPURTING 0 OtjxS [l]

(from a tap)
WATER DRIPPING 0 ,[e]

The drip metaphor is also used in relation to other kinds of liquid:


SWEAT n -ox < 5 - o x n [ " ]
s t.]
BLOOD o GT A * // 0 OxA
;[]
SALIVA o 8r> (5'-ox
Creative uses of the EMANATE morphene 4.03 fl
So far w e have focused primarily on the established signs of the BSL lexicon.
However, it is also important to see how the signer can manipulate the
morphological elements, either to create new signs which may ultimately
become part of the lexicon or to create particular kinds of effect. In most
cases the signer anticipates knowledge of the relevant underlying meta
phors. By exploiting these metaphorical relationships, the signer is able to
move beyond the limit of the established frozen lexicon: yet it could b e
argued that the same underlying resources are being used, but in different
kinds of combination and with differing effect.

BSL has a verb CRY which is part of the established lexicon:

n /v
v
U GTA GTA N

This verb can itself b e modified, especially through the addition of aspectual
modulations. However, the signer may use other possibilities. The following
examples all come from children's stories told in BSL. In the first example,
the signer used two hands placed in front of the eyes, with palm orienta
tion away from the signer. T h e two hands then move away in a nodding
movement and simultaneously open to two G hands:
m a (v)["]
U GX V GX V

The resulting sign gives the impression of two jets of tears shooting out from
the eyes and has the narrative effect of suggesting a sudden eruption of pent-
up emotion.
Another signer uses a similar variation on the sign SWEAT. In a story about
Bruno, a large overweight bear in training for a football match, the signer has
the sweat 'zapping' away from the bear in alternating ' j e t s ' , rather than mere
drips.
SWEAT n fi-oj. []
v [] u -
n
JETS O F SWEAT fix A fix A
In one sense, the metaphor moves us a further step away from reality, yet the
image is highly effective within the narrative context. Both of these last
examples exploit the underlying EMIT metaphor but through a modification
SWEAT
which suggests a sharp, concentrated flow.
It has been suggested to me (Fischer 1989) that this form may be an
example of an aspectual inflection meaning 'suddenly erupted'. However,
this is doubtful given that this form itself can undergo further inflection, e.g.
to indicate 'kept on erupting'.

["] u
fixA fixA

The first signer also produced an alternative version of CRY. Here the two
O hands were placed in front of the eyes, with palms facing away. Both
hands then opened to 5 h^ndjS while the hands simultaneously nodded away
and down u OXA OXA d This suggests an even more dramatic eruption
in which the tears gush forth. Again w e know that the metaphor does not
reflect reality in a direct way. This kind of usage is comparable to such
English expressions as:
" S h e was in floods of tears."
" S h e burst into tears."
W e know that the person i s not literally 'bursting' or literally 'drowning' in
her own tears. It seems that w e have a linguistic fine tuning which allows us
to interpret the image appropriately. As in English, the most effective
images are those which are least expected.
In Ted Hughes' story of T h e I r o n M a n , the massive Iron Man of the title
has huge eyes like headlights. T h e signer is easily able to transfer the hands
from the normal position f o r headlights to a position in front of the eyes
[]
II OXA OXA T h e metaphor is actually expressed in the BSL version
by means of a sign which is itself metaphorical. T h e signer, like the speaker, JETSO F TEARS

can provide a multi-layered network of metaphors to which the addressee


responds a t a whole range of different levels. It would b e impossible to
provide a complete list of the 'creative' uses of the EMANATE/EMIT metaphor.
However, several further examples from the data may serve to demonstrate
its use within the language.
One signer, referring to ' t h e fiery tail of a shooting star', placed the right
O hand behind the l e f t fi hand, with the back of the right hand touching the
left wrist. Both hands then separated and opened, with the l e f t hand moving
away and up and the right hand towards and down:
0 [flxA L X OTA,] A

Another signer referred to the firing of turbo-jet racing cars by placing the
O hands with palms facing the signer's body, but the hands placed almost
behind the signer. T h e hands then opened in a repeated action echoing the
T [ * ]
fiery burst of the turbo: 0 OTV
This contrasted with the sign used for a j e t aeroplane's vapour trail, in which
the two O hands were placed in front of the body at face level and then the
FLOODS O F TEARS
hands opened while moving steadily towards the body.
S M
C ff T A F T A

One signer's version of a missile launch made use of the left hand G
classifier for a long thin object with the O -> 5 action depicting the
emission of vapour and gas. T h e action was similar to that used for the fiery
tail of a shooting star in that the left hand, representing the missile, moved
upwards and away while the l e f t hand moved down and towards the body as
it opened. 0 (G>A , X OTV ,) g ^
The GRASP set of metaphors 4.04
The GRASP morpheme is expressed through the closing hand action: typically
t h e h a n d m o v e s f r o m f u l l y o p e n to f u l l y c l o s e d , ie. 5 -> A . T h e underlying
m e t a p h o r exploits t h e i d e a of physically grasping o r getting hold of s o m e
entity a n d t h i s is e x t e n d e d t o m o r e abstract conceptions.
T h e holding h a n d s h a p e A a n d t h e grasping h a n d s h a p e s e t 5 -> A a n d 5
-> O a r e frequently used i n B S L to e x p r e s s m e a n i n g s linked with possession.

5 -> A h a n d s h a p e p a i r
Typical e x a m p l e s include:
HAVE 0 5x>I!
2M
GET 0 5<-L

MY [] A T < "
1
YOUR [] A i a
FIND 0 5T< *
B S L uses a c o m p o u n d sign with the 5 - A g r a s p a s t h e second element t o
mean ' u n d e r s t a n d ' o r ' g e t hold o f ' an idea. It so h a p p e n s that English uses
similar metaphors:
" N o w I ' v e grasped w h a t h e ' s talking a b o u t . "
" H e c o u l d n ' t seem t o g e t hold of t h e i d e a . "
In B S L , this GRASP metaphor is actually expressed through a grasping action.
S o m e t i m e s the signer u s e s t w o h a n d s in an alternating f o r w a r d m o v e m e n t t o
JXUaIV )
show t h e gradual struggle t o understand something: n 5XA 5_LA L
Interestingly enough, English also uses a type of GRASP metaphor in con
nection w i t h t h e sense of sight " I caught sight of m y b r o t h e r in the c r o w d . "
In BSL, the GRASP morpheme can also b e used with reference to both
NOTICE / CATCH SIGHT O F a
seeing and hearing. T h e sign f o r N O T I C E o r C A T C H S I G H T O F i s o f t e n
produced a s a c o m p o u n d f o r m with the s i m p l e sign S E E a s t h e first element
a n d t h e grasping action realising t h e second element. Sometimes the
grasping action is p e r f o r m e d against the l e f t f l a t hand; a t other times the l e f t
hand is omitted. O f t e n in current us a ge , t h e f i r s t e l e m e n t of the c o m p o u n d
f o r m i s omitted a n d instead t h e o p e n 5 hand i s placed c l o s e to t h e eye:

Variants of C A T C H S I G H T O F
U CTA " 0 5 X A *
// ( A [*] *
U CTA *h BT> 5 I A , "
I [A]
U 5 XA *

T h e illustration on t h e l e f t s h o w s a match between the e y e - g a z e (right) a n d


the direction of t h e item which has been seen. In this e x a m p l e , the grasping
action occurs a s t h e h a n d m o v e s t o t h e r i g h t and it is a s i m p l e rather than
compound form.
Almost identical f o r m s can o c c u r a t t h e ear rather than t h e eye:
33... i W
5 I A "
NOTICE / CATCH SIGHTO F b
j W
G<A *
[104]
Again simple or compound forms are possible: BSL uses the GRASP metaphor
f o r sound in a way which i s not possible in English. Thus we speak of
'catching sight of something' but not of 'catching hearing' or 'catching
sound'. 1 Clearly, even where languages share similar metaphors, they ex- i Note, however, such examples as "I didn't
ploit them differently. catch w h a t y o u said" and "a catchy tune".

T w o signs f o r ACHIEVE also employ the same image. In the first, the l e f t
hand is used a s the base and the right hand moves from the right, producing
r 1
the closing action a s i t brushes against the left palm: G>A 5 < x t I
T h e second ACHIEVE sign is closely linked with signs such a s AIM and
GOAL. In these signs, the left G hand represents the goal t o be reached or
the point to b e aimed a t and the left hand indicates movement towards the aim
or goal:
AIM G>A B<AT
m
GOAL c >A B < A T

In ACHIEVE the right hand also moves towards the G hand but it simulta
neously expresses the GRASP metaphor, thus presenting the image of a goal
AIM
which has been grasped, ie, achieved:
[A]

ACHIEVE O A 5< x t m
When the grasp action is produced with an upward movement it is often
A[ A ]
linked with meanings relating to FIND: 0 5 < x *
Again, a s in English, the f i n d image is used to express the meaning RE
SEARCH FINDINGS. In this case, the sign is performed at the same position
a s the sign f o r RESEARCH and an alternating upward movement is used.
? +
0 V D > , VT><
* [AA] M

0 5 > x 5< x *
' . <'> (
It is important to recognise that the signer may choose to express the
notion of 'research findings' by using this or alternative signs. In part, the
choice does seem to link with what kind of ' i m a g e ' or 'metaphor' the signer
wishes to convey. Thus the signer could use the sign sometimes glossed as
RESULTS: this has more of a deictic base, with the thumbs pointing to
imagined columns of results: 0 AXA AXA
Alternatively, the signer could use the image of a written report, with the
ACHIEVE
l e f t hand representing paper and the right hand moving down the l e f t hand
and arm to indicate or show the imagined findings:
v
//
o GTA *H BTA BTA, ? .

T h e signer will vary the images, sometimes consciously and explicitly for
effect; at other times, simply as part of the natural flexibility inherent in the
language which can b e used without undue consideration. A related group
of signs can b e noted under the sub-grouping of SEIZE. Examples include
ARREST, ie, a person is seized by the police, and STEAL, where goods are
FINDINGS
seized o r taken.
ARREST /*
0

51 A i
5[a]

0 ^

GIVE UP 4.05 1

T h e opening hand action from A or O to 5 expresses meanings associated


with GIVE U P or G E T R I D OF. A common sign f o r 'give up' involves
placing the two O hands in front of the body, with palms facing up. T h e

5 -> A h a n d s h a p e p a i r
hands then open in an upward movement to two 5 hands.
D
[..]
0 O a x O a i

The opposite orientation, ie, with palms down gives us D R O P or LOSE:


DROP 0 Oai"
[.]
LOSE 0 Oax Oai11
WITHOUT begins with the hands together but then separating and opening:
a
[]
0 O a x O a x

T h e sign STRIKE also uses the same action: again the underlying metaphor
is GIVE UP. The two signs
! [ . . ]
RESIGN [] A>A A<> V

SI]
RETIRE [] A>a A<A
both include the meaning 'give up'. Several other signs make use of the same
action t o mean giving up some thing or some activity. SPEND involves
'giving u p ' or 'getting rid o f ' money. Like many other signs connected with
money, one sign f o r SPEND is produced using the left flat B hand as the base
of the sign. T h e right O hand is placed with the back of the hand on the palm
of the left hand and then the right hand moves forward opening to a 5 . The
GIVE U P
action can be repeated to mean 'spending a lot ot m o n e y ' , 'spending fre
quently' or 'spendthrift'. The same action can be produced at the right hip.
this location is associated with the right trouser pocket:
x[,]
SPEND Ba> x OaxS
SPENDTHRIFT 1 Ba> x Oax 5M
D
*[.]
SPENDTHRIFT 2 HOax

The COPY / ABSORB set of metaphors 4.06 U


The copy/absorb set of metaphors also involves hand internal action: this
time typically from open (parallel) B ( I ) to closed B ( B ) . T h e initial
position of may vary from one in which the thumb is held parallel to the
index finger to one in which the thumb is held as far a s possible from the
index finger, without moving into the right angle position. T h e B handshape
involves contact between the thumb and fingertips. Usually the hand moves
towards a meaningful locus in space or on the signer's body at the same time
as the closing action occurs.
SPENDTHRIFT The most frequent signs f o r ' c o p y ' i n v o l v e the -> B closing action. In
[106]
o n e case, the hand is held in neutral space with the palm facing away from
t h e s i gner' s body. T h e hand then closes a s it moves towards the signer's
body. This is a neutral form , although it can b e directionalised.
COPY
Similarly, t h e form in which the l e f t B hand is used a s the base of the action
can b e seen a s relatively neutral, although it is often used in connection with
copies of papers, books, etc: B e x b % X 1 , 1
T h e B S L sign P H O T O G R A P H uses the -> B action produced in f r o n t of -> B h a n d s h a p e p a i r

the f a c e , palm towards the signer, with a simultaneous movement away from
the signer. This is in contrast t o the sign T O PHOTOGRAPH which derives
from t h e clicking action involved in taking a photograph:
1 M
PHOTOGRAPH C BTA"
T O PHOTOGRAPH UG o
The COPY metaphor is used in a range of more recent signs. PHOTOCOPY
uses the -> action, b u t performed under the l e f t B base hand. This
reflects the fact that the copying is produced underneath the f l a t paper:
i U]
PHOTOCOPY S/o-L x i<x<
VIDEOTAPE COPYING is usually performed with the left B base hand held
with the palm facing right and the l e f t S palm also facing right: the hand
moves l e f t closing onto the l e f t palm. T h e sign may also b e produced with the
opening handshape placed on the l e f t palm and the closing action performed
a s the hand moves t o the right. This is usually used when the signer is
referring to copying parts or the whole of one videotape onto another:
VIDEOCOPY 1 B >-L BXA [TL *
COPY
VIDEOCOPY 2 B>xi<xCl]x
T h e same underlying metaphor is often used within computer contexts to
mean ' c o p y ' and/or ' s a v e ' . Here the initial palm position is towards the
signer and the hand moves away (towards the implied computer terminal) as
it closes:
COPY INTO A COMPUTER 0 BT< "
If the signer wishes to focus on the notion of 'saving a p r o g r a m m e ' , then the
final hand configuration is usually a fully closed fist, A . T h i s seems to
PHOTOCOPY
incorporate both the COPY and the POSSESSIONmetaphors:
D [AJ
SAVE O N A COMPUTER 0 T< *
In one sense, the COPY group of metaphors can be seen as a subset for the
ABSORB metaphor: it is as if an image or a feature is 'taken i n ' or 'absorbed'
and hence copied.
The basic ABSORB / TAKE IN metaphor employs either one or two hands
closing to B hands. The closing action can b e located a s appropriate. This
movement towards various spatial or physical loci an inherent part of the
VIDEOCOPY
realisation of the ABSORB morpheme.
One of the most familiar examples is the sign LEARN. Here the two open
S hands are placed in f r o n t of the forehead, then move towards the signer
while closing to two B hands. The image is of taking in or absorbing
information. Again the conventionalised association of the head location
with cognition works along with the ABSORB metaphor to create the complete
nr\ = = m
meaning: BXA BXA
In a related lexical item meaning STUDY or LEARN FROM A BOOK, a third

SMELL 1 (nmf: sniffing action)


element is added: the flat B hand operates as a PAPER / PAGE classifier. At the
onset of the sign, the open hand is placed on the left B hand, then moves
upwards towards the forehead while simultaneously closing to a B : here the
image is of taking in information from the written page and absorbing it in
the head:
_ 0[l]
1
STUDY / LEARN FROM A BOOK BT>B-ox ^ B X A
The ABSORB metaphor can also be used in relation to the senses, particularly
hearing and smell. In HEAR the open I is held a short distance from the

SMELL 2
right ear and the hand then moves towards the ear, closing simultaneously:
3
Ba x * . I n SMELL, a similar action is performed at the nose:
_
U B< x *

Again, the signer has flexibility. The choice of a sign realising the ABSORB

metaphor creates a particular kind of effect. This can b e illustrated in the


following set of examples which would all be glossed using some form of
either the verb T O SMELL or the noun SMELL:
SMELL 1 HT A *
SMELL 2 B<xSU3
SMELL 3
SMELL 3 5 TA ?
SMELL 4 a 5x><
In the first example, the focus is on the act of smelling or sniffing something.
The illustration shows the sign used within the context of a fox smelling
something strange. In the next sentence, the signer used the 6 -> B action
f o r SMELL: here the focus is on taking in or absorbing the smell. An
alternative possibility would have been the use of the lines metaphor. In one
version, the whole 5 hand bends forward towards the nose suggesting lines
SMELL 4
of smell penetrating the nose. (We can contrast this with lines of odour
emanating from the mouth when referring to strong- smelling breath).
STRONG BREATH o 5 XA 1
The alternative lines morpheme expressed by the fingers of the 5 hand
wriggling in front of the nose, suggests that the smell is not being fully
absorbed but is present, virtually 'floating' in the air. By making choices
from a range of possibilities the signer is able to create particular kinds of
effect.
STRONG BREATH
While the use of the ABSORB metaphor in signs meaning 'hear', 'listen' and
[108]
'smell' is common, its use in relation to sight is less frequent, but still
possible. The I -> B action would normally b e used to express meanings
linked with taking in explicitly visual information. Thus in discussing
signed language, signers sometimes contrast visual and auditory perception
and in doing s o make use of the following two contrasting signs:
S [ ]
VISUAL PERCEPTION Ul a x l a x "
3 j t ]
AUDITORY PERCEPTION Ia> ia< "
Several different new signs have been noted which express the notion of
'acquisition', particularly within the context of 'language acquisition'. In
almost all of the examples observed, the I -> B action has been used,
presumably expressing the ABSORB metaphor. In one version, a sign similar
to LEARN is used: the movement is made at head level but the hand
orientation contrasts with LEARN in that an initial upward rather than
downward palm orientation is used. Once again the head location empha
sises the presumed link between language acquisition and cognition:
A [il]
N
Ba i Ba x *

Another variant has a dual location. The sign begins at head level with the
hands twisting towards the forehead as they close. However, instead of
contacting the forehead, they move down to finish with a downward contact
ing movement on the chest. This sign, while recognising the link with
cognition, seems to suggest a more complete and complex physical and
mental absorption.
Observation suggests that while there is not as yet a single standardised sign
used for 'acquisition' within the context of 'language acquisition', those signs
which are currently in use all exploit an underlying ABSORB metaphor.
One of the signs used for the illness AIDS makes use of a realisation of
ABSORB as the first element in a compound sign. The second element is the
sign ILL which is performed on the chest. The sign could be glossed literally
as ACQUIRED ILLNESS:
1[
AIDS: [] Ba x S a x " ]" / 1
<^> 1
*< *
While in this last example it is reasonably easy to see a link both between the
notions of 'absorb' and 'acquire' and between the English name for the illness
and the subsequent sign, in other examples the links are less obvious. The
following sentence is an English translation of a BSL sentence from T h e
Iron Man:

"It is possible that an earthquake in Japan can make the world shake on its
axis and this can be transmitted as far as Britain where we can experience
the tremor even though the earthquake happened a long way away."

The sign translated here as "experience" is actually made with the B B -> B ACQUIRE C
B action, produced in front of the body with the hands moving towards and
touching the chest: i[] n
The sense of the BSL version is quite clear, yet it is difficult to find an
English verb which fully encapsulates the meaning of the BSL sign. It may
well b e that the addressees have never seen this particular usage before, but
familiarity with the use of the ABSORB metaphor in BSL makes the sign easily
comprehensible.
I t is clear that the I -> B , or in some cases -> B , hand action is
used in many contexts where the sign could b e translated into the English
verb "absorb" or other related verbs. However, in BSL the hand action can
b e located to show the nature of the absorption concerned. Thus the hand
placed in front of the head and then closing towards the forehead can mean
"I have taken it all in", "I have absorbed the information". 'Absorb' is here
used of a mental process, hence the head location: [] 5 a x " ^
The signer can use a similar action when discussing more physically based
types of absorption. When signing about nutrients being absorbed into the
blood, one signer performed the 5 -> B action with both hands moving
2X I ]
down the chest: [] 5<A F >A
Another signer discussing pollution used two hands performing the O -> 5
action repeatedly to indicate the flow of effluent into a river (ie, expressing
the EMIT metaphor) and then used the right I -> B action moving away
from the body in a slight side t o side movement. The l e f t hand simultaneously
expressed the final part of the emit action. T h e I -> B action suggested the
J. h _ _ 1
absorption of the pollutant into the flowing river: 0 O^OX a u 0 5TV "

DROWN
Such examples demonstrate the range of possibilities of the ABSORB metaphor
in BSL.

The DROWN, MELT, DISAPPEAR, SUCK sets of metaphors 4.07 H


While such notions as 'disappear' and 'drown' might at first sight seem very
different from concepts such as 'absorb' and 'copy', a closer examination
suggests a strong link between them. T h e sign DROWN in BSL uses the
-> B closing action. At the onset of the sign, the right I hand is placed
within the left C hand. T h e right hand closes to a B as it moves downward:
_ _ J [f]
C >A 0 5a-L *

However, the one-handed version of the sign is also often used. There are
several examples in Clark Denmark's B S L version of T h e I r o n M a n . In one
example, the left 5 hand is used to represent the sea while the closing
action is produced in a downward movement by the right hand:
E * s i t"]
5 "o> i 5a x *

The image i s of the Iron Man being 'absorbed by' or 'swallowed up by' the sea.
Similarly, when the signer describes the Iron Man toppling over and falling
into a huge pit, a similar sign is used suggesting again that the Iron Man is
v [<]
swallowed u p b y or sucked into the pit: 0 f "
W e begin to see then that many of these concepts share some common
semantic element. It may not b e appropriate to speak of common semantic
features. However, at the very least w e can recognise that they are all capable
of being expressed by the same metaphor o r metaphor set. In BSL, these
metaphors actually share a common physical form. Thus in BSL, it is
possible to use the same I -> B action when referring to someone/some
thing drowning or someone/something disappearing into the sky and this is
expressed in B S L by a common metaphorically based morpheme.
In English, i t would b e quite possible to speak of something 'melting into
the distance' or 'melting into the darkness' or of someone being 'swallowed
up by' or 'absorbed by' the mist. In all such examples the / -> B closing
action would b e used in BSL, suggesting a shared underlying metaphor. T h e
standard BSL signs f o r MELT, DISAPPEAR, AND SUCK(ED) IN are all
similar in form.
The DISAPPEAR metaphor may b e expressed by either the I -> B action
or the 6 -> G action. At the end of the signed story B e a r H u n t the little
bear escapes on the back of a bird and the bird flies off into the skies. The
signer uses a classifier compound form showing the bear on the back of the
A A
bird (B"O.L k Vax] and then uses a version of DISAPPEAR indicating
A
the upward movement: 5-r< * ^
Another signer described 'individuals' disappearing rapidly into the jungle to
escape a lion. Here the -> G action is used in an alternating separating
movement, ie, the people escaped in different directions. On this occasion,
the signer accompanies the manual movement with a small lip rounding.
This is common with various realisation of the DISAPPEAR metaphor:
^ = - i["]"
0 G>A G<A*

The I -> B action is often used at the head location. T h e resulting


meaning is something like 'I completely forgot', 'It completely went out of
my mind', 'My mind went a complete blank': the precise English translation
would depend upon the context: O 5T>
MIND WENT BLANK
Meanings relating to 'suck', 'suck in', 'suck out' may all b e expressed by the
use of the I -> B action. This would typically b e accompanied by a
sucking action at the mouth, even if the sign involved did not relate to oral
sucking. Thus speaking of a carpet cleaner which sucked the water out of a
sodden carpet, the signer used the hand with palm down orientation at the
onset of the sign and then moved the hand upward in a repeated closing
action. T h e manual action was accompanied by lip rounding and a sharp
intake of breath a t each repetition:
SUCTION CLEANER 0 F -OJ. A "
Another signer, speaking of t h e blitz in G r e e n o c k , Scotland tells how a b o m b
b l a s t caused t h e d e a t h s of a g r o u p of p e o p l e in an a i r raid shelter b y sucking
t h e a i r o u t of their lungs. Both h a n d s e x p r e s s t h e I -> action at t h e chest
a n d t h e signer simultaneously produc e s t h e lip-rounding a n d breath intake:
[ ] BT V B T V

The POSITIONAL sets of metaphors 4.08 H


T h i s is a m a j o r grouping of m e t a p h o r sets w h e r e relative position in space
r e f l e c t s t h e relative status o r relationship of individuals, g r o u p s a n d obj e c t s .
R e f e r e n c e w a s m a d e in chapter t w o (page 2 2 ) t o L a k o f f a n d J o h n s o n ' s claim
that m o s t of o u r f u n d a m e n t a l concepts a r e organised in t e r m s of o n e o r m o r e
spatialisation metaphors. T h e s a m e authors distinguish a particular meta
p h o r t y p e which they label orientation m e t a p h o r s . T h e y s ugge s t that ori e n-
tational metaphors organise

"...a whole system of concepts with respect to one another."


Lakoff a n d Johnson, 1980, p l 4

T h e y a r e called orientational metaphors b e c a u s e

"...most of them have to do with spatial orientiation: up-down, in-out, front-


back, on-off, deep-shallow, central-peripheral. These spatial orientations
arise from the fact that we have bodies of the sort we have and they function
as they do in our physical environment. Orientational metaphors give a
concept of spatial orientation."
Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, page 14.

Expression of spatial relationships in B S L 4.09 f


A m o n g t h e e x a m p l e s given b y L a k o f f and Johnson a r e t h e fol l ow i ng:
H I G H S T A T U S IS U P : L O W S T A T U S IS D O W N
M O R E IS U P : L E S S I S D O W N
H A V I N G C O N T R O L O R F O R C E IS U P : B E I N G S U B J E C T T O C O N T R O L
O R F O R C E IS D O W N
It i s c l e a r that B S L also exploits orientational metaphors. T h e t h r e e t ype s
mentioned a b o v e a r e certainly used i n B S L , although not necessarily in t h e
s a m e w a y a s in E n g l i s h .
H o w e v e r , in order t o s e e the f u l l r a n g e of possibilities in B S L w e need t o b e
a w a r e o f t h e w a y s in which spatial d i m e n s i o n s are t h e m s e l v e s expressed in
t h e language. T h e r e is a structured correspondence b e t w e e n t h e position of
t h e b o d y articulators a n d t h e categories of spatial d i m e n s i o n . It is a s if t h e
actions of t h e signer's h a n d s a n d body represent these d i m e n s i o n s , within t h e
signing space. T h e sets of constraints a n d relationships are copied in space,
b u t in a f o r m which exploits the possibilities of t h e linguistic system. W e a r e
dealing with a k i n d of visual echoing. I t m a y b e helpful t o illustrate this,
firstly b y discussing s o m e specific examples.
'Size' is typically expressed in B S L b y m e a n s of relative distance between
t h e t w o hands, relative distance between t h e hand(s) and s o m e implied
reference p o i n t (eg, the ground, the signer's b o d y , or a reference point
represented by t h e other hand) o r relative distance between the thumb and
index f i n g e r o r t h u m b and all fingers together.
H U G E m a y b e signed by moving t h e B hand in a f i r m movement upwards
t o a level above, o r a t the side, of the he a d. H e r e the reference point o r base
line is the ground. In the illustration on the right, w e can n o t e that the head
i s turned to t h e r i g h t and the shoulders sloped. Within this particular context,
t h e whole body i s in f a c t also a reference point: the meaning would b e
something like "(The Iron Man) w a s absolutely huge; (he) towered above
everyone". H U G E as in 'huge body' c a n b e signed by having the t w o hands
separating either vertically o r horizontally in space. In o r d e r to show
comparative size, the l e f t hand is typically used a s a reference point. T h u s
again in T h e I r o n M a n , the signer produced a classifier form f o r H O U S E , ie,

the 5 CL, then used C - S A S S - C L to show the position of the Iron Man alongside
the house. T h e l e f t hand 5 CL was then retained while the right hand
produced t h e single sign H U G E simultaneously, meaning: "The Iron Man
w a s much m o r e massive than a house."
H U G E (MAN) CBTJI'
HUGE (BODY)l 0 B>x , B < x +
HUGE (BODY)2 0 5a x 5T>X *
HUGE (HEAD) 0 B>x B < x *
M O R E M A S S I V E (than a house) 5\>x * BT>X *

L I T T L E N E S S is frequently shown by a comparable set of examples, but


instead of moving apart, the articulators c o m e together o r a r e held relatively
close together. S M A L L a s in a A S M A L L C H I L D would u s e t h e B hand
placed low in t h e signing space, making short downward movements; TINY
a s in A TINY K I T T E N would u s e t h e t w o B hands held fairly close together
ma k i ng ver y slight movements towards each other; to indicate that o n e
person is smaller than another, the l e f t B hand can retain a relatively high
position, while the right B hand produces small downward movements at a
point appropriately low in t h e signing space:
y
SMALL (CHILD) 0 B"o_L
T I N Y ( K I TT E N ) 0 a > 8,x""
5 1
S MA LL E R T H A N fi/ox B-ox
F o r meanings relative t o expansion, t h e articulators typically m o v e apart: f o r
meanings associated with contraction the hands come together. In some
cases, both hands produce the movement, in other cases the left hand is used
a s a reference-point, in EXPAND and ENLARGE (as in 'expand/enlarge the
company') both hands separate; in EXTENSION and INCREMENT the l e f t
hand is typically held stationary while the right hand performs the move
ment. Thus usually f o r EXTENSION the right B hand would b e in front of
the l e f t (but with both hands touching), then move forward: the right hand
is, a s it were, delineating the extension. In INCREMENT, typically the l e f t
vertical B hand is held stationary, while the right B hand moves upward
from the base of the index finger of the left hand:
CONTRACTION 0 B>J. B<X X
+
EXPAND/ENLARGE 0 B>x , B<x
X
EXTENSION BT> TX BT<
I
INCREMENT B>A x B<A,
Proximity is usually expressed either by the hands being placed in close
proximity or by the hand(s) being placed relatively close to the body. SIDE
BY SIDE has the two C hands placed side by side in neutral space - the short
downward movement stresses position. NEAR has the right C hand moving
towards the body:
SIDE BY SIDE 0 CXA CXA"
t
NEAR 0 Cta
As w e have already stressed, in English and many other languages aspects
of spatial dimension and organisation are used to express more abstract re
lationships. In BSL, the same is true, although here the actual physical
expression of these more abstract metaphors makes use of the kind of visual
echoing already noted.
In the following sections, I will give only a partial account of some
positional metaphors in BSL in order to illustrate some of the main types
available. However, given the extent to which the language exploits spatiali-
sation generally, it must b e obvious that the potential for metaphorical
extension of this structuring is enormous.

The STATUS set of metaphors 4.10 1

If w e take the Lakoff and Johnson claim that in English "high status is up; low
status is down" and we explore its use in BSL, we find that not only does this
metaphor operate within the language but it is physically expressed through
relative height of the hands in space.
In the sign EQUAL, the two hands are held side by side at the same level, they
then separate in an up and down movement so that they are also at the same
level a t final position. This equality of the hands in space represents an equal
status.
In S U P E R I O R , t h e t w o B hands a r e again initially held side b y side, but the
right hand then m a k e s a right a n d l e f t upward movement. T h i s movement
m e a n s that t h e f i n a l position of t h e r i g h t hand i s parallel to, b u t eight o r n i n e
inches above, its original position.
F o r INFERIOR the opposite is t h e case: the right hand makes a right a n d l e f t
movement dow nw ar ds . T h e right and l e f t directional movement s e e m s to
emphasise t h e relationship between the original and final positions.
Various d i f f e r e n t versions of these signs a r e in use. Some use palm u p rather
than palm d o w n orientation, f o r example. Others u s e single upward or down
ward movement, rather than t h e combined right-left plus upward or down
ward m ovem ent . However, in all c a s e s , relative position in space is used to
express meanings linked with status. T h e l e f t B hand is o f t e n used a s a kind
of bench-mark, the r i g h t hand i s then seen a s relatively low or high in relation
t o t h e position of the l e f t hand.

O f t e n a separate sign of STATUS i s not required in such expression a s "high


status" or "low status" because t h e l e f t hand acts a s a marker t o show relative
height a n d h e n c e status. W h e r e a sign i s required, the t w o B hands are
typically held side b y side, relatively high in t h e signing space - sometimes
a t n e ck or f a c e level - and then separate.
However, t h e context may encourage diffe re nt realisations. I have observed
a compound sign making use of P R A I S E a n d STATUS in such contexts as:
"Recognition of B S L has given status to the Deaf community."
(V)
EQUAL 0 B-ox , B ox
S UP ER I O R B "ox , B-ox * A *
EQUAL
INFERIOR BTJX , B-ox>v<
STATUS 1 B-ox B xix

STATUS 2 0 A>x < x v


!! 0 B^ox . B - o x *

T h e l e f t hand and/or lower arm held vertically can also b e used a s a location
o n which t o designate specific points, a s on a scale. Thus t h e notion of
stylistic register i s sometimes shown b y the side of the right B hand contact
ing t h e l e f t palm (held with palm right and fingers up). T h e right hand
contacts t h e l e f t in a series of steps, moving steadily d o w n t h e palm:
STYLISTIC REGISTER
STYLISTIC REGISTER B>A , B - o x ( " ; )
T h e signer can then simply contact a point close to the wrist t o mean 'low
register' o r a p o i n t close t o the fingertips t o mean 'high register'. Similarly
the notion of socio-economic groupings (manual workers, skilled workers,
etc) o r upper, m i d d l e and working class (as in British usage) can b e shown
b y using the right hand and arm f r o m fingertips to elbow. Contact at a point
close t o t h e el bow would m e a n working class, at a point near t h e middle
would mean m i d d l e class a n d a t a p o i n t near t h e fingertips, upper class.
J B
WORKING CLASS ' >A t Bl0<
"
MIDDLE CLASS J B>A , B^OX
UPPER CLASS J T
B<A , B^JL X
'

English uses a comparable image: the vertical element is a ladder and the
designated positions are rungs of the ladder. Hence w e speak of "someone
being on the first rung of the ladder" or having "leapt to the top of the ladder".
In BSL, the latter notion can b e shown by moving the l e f t B hand from elbow
position to fingertip position in a firm, emphatic right-left upward move
ment: Y B>A T B-O< " A * T "
Precise reference may depend upon the context. In some cases, the signer
may retain the arm position, but produce a separate action with the left hand.
Thus one signer speaking of the notion of 'untouchables', retained the left
arm in its vertical position (bent at elbow, fingers up) and used a circular
action with the right 5 hand to the right and almost parallel with the left
elbow: J B > A , STOJ. T

It was as if this group was seen as being both 'off the scale' and separate from
all other groups. An almost identical sign was also observed, this time with
SCUM OF THE EARTH
the addition of the non-manual feature of tongue protrusion. T h e context
suggested an appropriate English translation might be something like:
"The Deaf have been treated like the scum of the earth' (italic section relates
1 T h i s m a n u a l action i s a c c o mp a n i e d b y t o n g u e tO t h e l o w - S t a t U S s i g n ) : J. B x><

protrusion. A similar usage involved the right hand placed low in the signing space: the
hand made two short downward movements and the non-manual tongue
protrusion feature was again used. T h e resulting sign could b e glossed as
MENIAL or SERVILE: 0 B-ox v '
The notion of 'hierarchy' can also b e expressed by use of a POSITIONAL

metaphor. In one version, the two B hands move upwards, while coming
together (as if designating different points on the sides of a pyramid).
So far it has been suggested that STATUS is associated with vertical
position: relatively high in space means relatively high in status and so on.
However, the horizontal, forward-back dimension is also used in a compa
rable way. Once again, w e see that English also happens to use the same
spatial metaphor although in English the metaphor has to b e realised through
the use of additonal locative expressions. In BSL, the position in space can
be expressed directly:
IN ADVANCE O F g>A , GXA X

LAG BEHIND CxACxAfT


5
BRING U P THE REAR >A i C x A f < T
As in English, some of these expressions may refer either to direct physical
location or t o more abstract sets of relationship such as status, relative
progress and so on. For example, a person may 'lag behind' in a walk or 'lag
LAG BEHIND
behind' his/her parents in, for example, academic progress.
[116]
I 4.11 The SEPARATE A N D TOGETHER sets of metaphors
Physical separation is typically shown by the two hands separating: physical
meeting is shown b y the two hands coming together as in the B S L signs
SEPARATE and MEET:
I
SEPARATE 0 BT>, B K
MEET 0 GTA GiAf *
More abstract meanings involving notions of separation or contiguity can SEPARATE

also b e expressed by means of these same physical actions. DIVORCE is


expressed b y the separating away movement of the two B hands from an
initial position in which the fingertips touch. EXCLUDE also has the two
hands initially together, then the right hand pushes forward away from the
left; ISOLATION usually combines the SINGLE ENTITY metaphor with
SEPARATION: the G hand initially is held inside the C hand but separates
down and away. SPLIT as in a couple 'splitting' initially has the two index
fingers touching, then they separate in a forward movement. FORK (as in a
'fork in the road') has two C hands, palms down, moving forward and then
separating as they continue t o m o v e forward. SEGREGATION usually has
the two B hands held with backs of fingers touching: the hands then separate
either forward-back or right to left.

DIVORCE 0 BT> , X BT< t


SPLIT 0 C t > | X GT< t

EXCLUDE B>x T B J_<
{
ISOLATION c > i 9 C a /
FORK (in the road) 0 G-OX , G-OX*

SEGREGATION 0 B < T I X B > X *

Several signs meaning MAKE LOVE or HAVE SEX WITH involve the two
hands approaching each other, usually with a to and f r o nodding movement;
similarly the signs for KISS involve the two hands (two H s or two Bs)
coming together and contacting.
MAKE LOVE WITH 0A a xA t v *"
HAVE SEX WITH 0 B Q.X BXJX X

M A K E LOVE WITH
KISS 1 o H a x HTA 1
KISS 2 o Bax B X A V

Notions connected with 'same' and 'difference' are typically expressed by


approaching and separating movement respectively: in SAME the two G
hands come together and contact each other; in DIFFERENT the two
G hands are held together at the beginning of the sign and twist upwards as
they separate. In AGREE the hands approach each other and touch; RESEM
BLANCE is a compound form with SAME as the second element; SIMUL
TANEOUS is a compound of SAME and TIME. SIMULATED has been H A V E SEX WITH
noted using a compound of PRETEND and SAME, while MATCH (as in 'they
were a perfect match') has the two hands coming together with fingertips
touching several times; SIMILAR also uses a repeated coming together and
contact:

AGREE 0 X>_L < x x *


V
RESEMBLANCE Q G TA Jj 0G-ox G - o < x x
x
SIMULTANEOUS 0 C x>x ^ C T,<

SIMULATED ii G<A*j j GX> CX>J.X"


MATCH 0 b>A , B < A * *
SIMILAR 0 C "O_L G T>-L *

In contrast, the following signs involve a separation of the two hands. In


DISAGREE the hands touch briefly and then twist upwards as they separate;
in CONTRAST and OPPOSITE the two G hands separate; VARIETY makes
use of a repeated, alternating up and down movement from an initial position
of contact; CONTRADICT is a compound of SAY and DIFFERENCE:
DISAGREE 0 a>x , A<x*s["3
CONTRAST 0 c-o-L G-ox T*
OPPOSITE 0 g t > GT< *
VARIETY 0 . C X 1 X . C X ?

CONTRADICT O GTA ^ jjQ) G > x G < x *


Again w e can notice that in English comparable spatial metaphors are also
used t o express such meanings. Thus individuals may have separate (ie,
'different') views, while people who agree with us are said to be 'with us
rather than against us'. Again it is worth stressing that such usage may seem
so obvious to us, that w e hardly think of it as metaphorical at all. This is
exactly why Lakoff and Johnson have stressed that such metaphors are
actually built in to our conceptual system.

The OPPOSITION set of metaphors 4.12 1


As suggested b y the title, an essential element of the realisation of this
metaphor is by means of the two hands placed in opposition to each other.
This is a further sub-category of positional metaphors. This is shown quite
simply in the standard sign for OPPOSITE where the two C hands are held
relatively close, but opposite each other, and then the hands separate, ie. the
+
right hand moves right and the l e f t hand moves left: 0 G > x , G < x
Of course opposition can b e shown by making use of appropriate classifier
handshapes in 'opposing' hand arrangements. Two people standing opposite
each other would exploit the G-PERSON-CL: 0 G >A G < A

Two groups of people opposed to each other, would b e shown through the use
of the 5 5-PEOPLE-CL: 0-5-o> 5-O< *

Two pillars placed opposite each other would make use of the C-SASS-CL in
opposing hand arrangement: 0 c > i c<x.v
It is worth stressing that the 'opposition' in the above examples may involve
actual physical opposition, ie. two groups of people physically facing each
other in real time and space, or it may involve symbolic opposition. Thus
individuals or groups may be politically opposed to each other and this may
be reflected in the opposing position of the hands. However, it is necessary
to distinguish between opposing hand arrangement as part of the lexical
structure of the language and opposing hand arrangement within syntactic
structure. Of course, the middle ground is extremely fuzzy. Here I concen
trate only on examples where the opposition has been lexicalised.
If we look at key examples within the lexicon, w e can see that the notion of
opposition underlies many examples where people are seen in confrontation
with each other. In WAR the two 5 hands are placed opposite each other,
usually to the left at shoulder level, and the opposing hands make repeated
movements towards each other: 0 5>A 5<A
Similarly in FIGHT, the two I hands, (with their conventionalised negative
association) are held opposite to each other and make repeated movements
towards each other: 0 ITA ITA X
"

In CHALLENGE a twisting movement is used at the onset of the sign as the


two C hands move into opposing positions. The initial twisting action seems
to emphasise the opposition involved: 0 C T I X GTO-L T

Two opposing G hands are used in COMPETITION and two opposing


hands in LEAGUE. Both signs seem to suggest a series of opposition (the
hands move downwards and move together in a series of steps). The hand
seems to be used as a kind of deictic, 'pointing out' the competitors.
COMPETITION 0 G > G <-L t * J
( X
LEAGUE 0 A I A IA

The signs ARGUE, QUARREL and POLITICS all make use of the hands in
opposition, but add an alternating up and down movement, which itself
seems to have a symbolic significance. The two opponents are never 'syn
chronised', they are always 'out of step', to use an ENGLISH metaphor.
ARGUE 0 t f > A , <f< A
QUARREL 0 ITA , 1T A '

POLITICS 0 > i , <x


In CONFLICT, the conventionalised I handshape is again used and the
hands are initially opposed. The hands then come together sharply to stress
the clashing of two opposites. ENEMY also uses the I handshape with the
hands in opposition:
CONFLICT 0 I x A ITA
ENEMY 0 I T A , I TA * Y
The meaning 'debate' is expressed by several different signs in BSL, all of
which exploit the OPPOSITION metaphor. In the first example the two opposed
C hands move u p and down in an alternating movement. In the second the
two hands are opposed, but move in a repeated motion from one side of the
body to the other. In the third the hands remain in opposition, but the hands
move from side to side in an alternating twisting motion. This serves to
emphasise the turntaking inherent within this notion. It is as if one meta-
phoric realisation is overlaid upon another to provide additional emphasis.
DEBATE 1 0 GT> GT< """
DEBATE 2 0 C >x C <j. 1
DEBATE 3 0 G >x G < x - ~ -
It seems clear that the OPPOSITION metaphor is productive in the language.
One interpreter translating the English expression "anti-Christ", produced
the first element of the sign CHRIST: ie. the middle finger of the right
hand contacted the left palm. Instead of repeating the action in reverse, the
right hand then moved to the right and in a firm downward movement
changed to a C . T h e sign could be glossed literally as CHRIST-PERSON-
OPPOSED. In the sign version, the 'anti' element was actually produced as
the second part of the sign. Such examples demonstrate how individuals can
almost unconsciously exploit the underlying metaphorical patterning of the
language.
ANTI-CHRIST 5>A , < A " / > A , G < A > V

The INTERACTION set of metaphors 4.13 1


This set of metaphors also implies two people placed opposite each other, but
in this case the movement parameter stresses mutual exchange. The move
ment typically involves an alternating to and f r o motion suggesting that one
person is simultaneously giving and receiving: there is a reciprocity in
volved. T h e basic sign INTERACT involves the two G hands producing the
to and f r o alternating movement: a twisting action may b e overlaid on this,
suggesting the turn-taking involved.
A recently noted sign for 'turn-taking' itself uses the deictic handshape ,
again with the hands performing alternating, twisting, to and f r o movements.
Many of the signs relating to communication make use of the to and f r o
alternating action:
INTERACT 0 C > A C < A W
-
W
TURNTAKING 0A>AA<A "
COMMUNICATE o C>A C < A X A
"

CONVERSE O G > A G < A I


"

DISCUSS 0 B a > Bo.<i w -

In NEGOTIATE there is often endmarking (ie. an emphatic hold at the end


of each directional movement), presumably stressing the to and f r o nature of
the activity: first one side is winning, then the other: 0 b&> B a < I f t " .
BARTER involves a very similar activity, but the movements are shorter
and more rapid, again reflecting the faster cut and thrust of bartering. The
notion of a 'tte--tte' can b e conveyed by an alteration in the basic sign for
CONVERSE: the hands are held closer together, the movements are shorter,
the head is pushed slightly forward and the shoulders are hunched. It is worth
noting the contrast between the kind of mutual exchange expressed through
the INTERACTION metaphor and the individual dominance expressed within re
INTERACT
lated signs. RESPOND begins in the same way a s CONVERSE with two G
hands in f r o n t of the mouth. However, instead of the alternating to and f r o
movement, the right hand moves sharply away stressing that one person is
responding to another: the interaction is at this point one-sided:
BARTER 0 Ba> B a < " '
RESPOND O (C>A G<A : )
The slight movement towards the signer made b y the left hand seems to be
an example of the complementary reflex action found in many manual tab
signs, ie. those in which both hands are used but the dominant hand performs
the major activity. Comparable examples include:
TRY G-ox G-oif
INCREASE H a_L H0.1"
In EXPLAIN the two hands produce an alternating circular movement. If the
meaning is 'I explain to you', then the primary directional movement is away
f r o m the signer. If the meaning is 'you explain to me' then the movement is
towards. However, in both cases, the directional movement stresses are one
way, rather than two-way interaction. This is also true f o r other signs, such
a s ANNOUNCE and INFORM.
I EXPLAIN T O YOU 0 B0. > B a < '

YOU EXPLAIN T O M E 0 B a > B a <

ANNOUNCE 0 GTA GTA


1 Itt]
INFORM n I >A <AF

H 4.14 The DEFINITE versus INDEFINITE sets of metaphors


One of the most obvious contrasts in BSL, and I suspect in many other sign
languages, is between the phonological realisation of meanings associated
with definiteness compared with the realisation of meanings associated with
indefiniteness. Thus signs such as DEFINITE, L A W and PRECISE in BSL
all involve firm one-directional movement. TRUE makes use of a firm down
ward movement of the right hand onto the left hand. The same movement is
used f o r L A W , b u t here the C hand (extended index finger) is used instead.
In PRECISE the F hand makes a sharp movement away. The variants of this
sign, which include a two handed version in neutral space and a single
handed version from the forehead all also make use of firm downward
movement:
Y
DEFINITE Bo.J. BT<
LAW B a i GTA * *
1
PRECISE(LY) 1 0 F >A
1
PRECISE(LY) 2 0 F>A F<A
n
PRECISE(LY) 3 < >F<A
Other signs which exploit the DEFINITE metaphor include BELIEVE, which is
a compound of SAY and TRUE; DECIDE, a compound of SAY and LAW:
PRINCIPLE which involves a firm movement of the G hand against the left
palm; CONSTITUTION which is produced with firm repeated movement of
the G hand down the l e f t palm and REAL which is produced with the hand
on the left palm:
BELIEVE nG t a !! B<X> B < J . X

DECIDE n G<A
x //
B a > G < x v x
//
DECIDE
PRINCIPLE BTA GTA'

CONSTITUTION BtaG-O<1%''
REAL BA> < x v x

This is in sharp contrast to signs which express meanings linked with


indefiniteness. Particularly obvious examples are those expressing mean
ings associated with uncertainty or doubt. One version of DOUBT or
DOUBTFUL involves the two flat B hands, palms up, moving in an alternat
ing up and down movement. Another version has the single B hand twisting
DOUBTFUL 1
from side to side in a repeated action (sometimes the right hand is placed in
the cupped l e f t hand, at other times the left hand is omitted):
DOUBT(FUL) 1 0 B a i B a x " ~ "

laws DOUBT(FUL) 2 Ba> x B < J ;


DOUBT(FUL) 3 Ca> x o B<xf"
The hand is neither completely up nor completely down: neither completely
right nor completely left. In fact, almost exactly the same metaphor is
expressed b y certain uses of the English word 'oscillate'. The physically-
DOUBTFUL 2 based meaning is "to swing to and f r o as a pendulum; to m o v e to and f r o
between two points" (Webster, 1977). English, then, uses the spatial meta
phor of physical fluctuation to refer to mental or attitudinal fluctuation. As
in previous examples, we can see how BSL expresses the same metaphor but
does s o more directly through physical fluctuation of the hand(s). If we
examine English words with related meaning we find that many of these
would b e translated into BSL signs which exploit the INDEFINITE morpheme.
This applies to English words such as "irresolution", "vacillation", "uncer
tainty", "ambivalence", "shilly-shally", and "waver". It is also interesting to
JIOUWC the strongly physical connotations of some of the related English
items; particularly "wobbly", "keep off and on", "blow hot aild cold" and
"play fast and loose". In some cases, it seems English is exploiting the
interaction between opposite extremes (hot/cold; fast/loose) to express the
INDEUW1TBNBSS metaphor. An excellent example of this is the Northern
expression "neither nout nor something", more familiarly expressed as
"neither one thing nor the other". The reduplication with change Of vowel
fourni m "shilly-shally", "easie-osie" and "wishy-washy" seems to be an
attempt to give concrete expression t o the fluctuation inherent within the
HTO8WNTTB metaphor. This i s indeed what Is suggested by Marchand <1969) in
lus classic account of word-formation in English. In a chapter significantly
entitled "Motivation by Linguistic Form" Marchand comments on the
symbolism inherent in the use of ablaut and rhyme gemination in English:
*

"The symbolism underlying ablaut variation is that of polarity which may


assume various semantic aspects...with words expressive of movement, the
idea of polarity suggests to and fro rhythm...Another aspect of 'to and fro
movement' is the idea of hesitation, as we have it in "shillyshally "dllly-
daily', "wiggle-waggle", "bingie-bangte". The same basic concept may lead
tu the variant of ambivalence, double-faced character, implying the dubious
or spurious value of the referent."
Marchand, 1969, p43l

h m fascinating to observe that comparable symbolism seems to underlie the


equivalent expressions in BSL. In fact, within the wider (western?) culture,
the meaning expressed by the English word "so-so" can be expressed by a
twisting up and down gesture. As with the related BSL signs, this gesture
appear* to make use of physical fluctuation to express the indefinite metn
phur. This metaphor i s used in a range of BSL examples including the
following:
MAYBE makes use of a short up and down twisting action; PERHAPS uses
a short side to side twisting action; SO-SO uses a side to side twisting action;
IRRE SOLUTE uses side to side twisting action; VACILLATE also uses a
side to side twisting action; PULL BOTH WAYS uses an alternating forward
sideways movement, the sign seems to derive from TEMPT, which also
involves a movement with the F hand from the chest (In TEMPT the image
is ot being pulled l a a specific direction; in the derived sign uncertainty is
built in through a realisation of the INDEFINITE metaphor); AMBIVALENT
use* an alternating t o and fro twisting action:
MA VUE
FbKHAPS 0Y\*-

H 231
SO-SO 0 5-OJ. "
IRRESOLUTE 0 5-ox S - o x * " '
VACILLATE 0>a<Ar"
PULL BOTH WAYS U FT>
X
TEMPT [] F T< '
AMBIVALENT Ba> x B<xi-
It is worth noting that the basic notion of oscillation can be shown in BSL
either by the swinging side to side action of the G hand or of the whole arm
with the closed hand to a fist.
S
OSCILLATE 1 0 G-rv
1
OSCILLATE 2 J ATv "
As in English, the 'swing of the pendulum' image can be used to stress the
movement from one radical approach to another eg. in politics. Clark
Denmark provides a particularly good example of this in a stirring BSL
presentation made during a campaign to save a deaf school. Almost everyone
who saw the presentation recalls immediately the pendulum image. Again it
is the direct visual nature of its realisation which makes the image so
striking. It is suggested here that this notion of oscillation or indefiniteness
can actually be built into a range of signs through the use of particular
movement types.

Productive role of metaphor 4.15 ^


It was suggested in chapter two that metaphors play an important part within
word-formation processes in BSL. There are several parts to this claim.
Firstly, it is argued that it is possible to group individual signs into specific
sets, with the members of each group sharing the same underlying metaphor.
Secondly, it is suggested that the resulting underlying morphemes are pro
ductive in that they enter into the word-formation processes of the language.
Finally, it is claimed that they have a triggering effect in respect of such
processes.
In the sections above, it has been demonstrated that the lexicon does indeed
contain metaphor sets. These groups of signs share common metaphorically-
based morphemes, such as EMANATE, GRASP, etc.. Each set can be described in
terms of a central protypical metaphor: other members of the set bearing
some relation to this central metaphor. This account seems to accord with the
intuitions of native signers that these signs are not purely arbitrary. Yet this
metaphorical relationship has rarely been recognised. Moreover, there seems
to be a considerable reluctance to make use of the notion of metaphor within
linguistic accounts. It may well be that this has much to do with the kind of
anxieties referred to by Bebian in 1817:
"In using it (sign language), will we constantly have to resort to metaphors
that necessarily have the disadvantage of revealing the thought only through
a transparent veil?"
Bebian, 1817 in Lane and Philip, 1984, page 150

Interestingly, B e b i a n a n s w e r s t h e question b y arguing that " s i g n language


h a s l e s s n e e d of m e t a p h o r s than speech i t s e l f ' . T h u s even though much of his
a c c o u n t d e m o n s t r a t e s a recognition of t h e non-arbitrary nature of t h e lexi
c o n , Bebian still s e e m s t o s e e t h e exploitation of metaphor a s a n indication
of inadequacy.

G e o r g e L a k o f f a n d his colleagues h a v e sought t o counteract such a view


b y r eco gnisin g t h e e x t e n t of metaphor a n d motivation within linguistic
systems generally. In this respect, L a k o f f ' s c o m m e n t s on both classifiers and
m e t a p h o r s a r e relevant. H e a r g u e s convincingly that neither formal syntax
n o r f o r m a l semantics "can deal adequately with the experiential, imagina
tive and ecological aspects of mind. Perhaps this is why formal linguists con
tinue to ignore the study of classifier systems." ( L a k o f f , 1986, p49). Simi
larly, "the Western tradition...has excluded metaphor from the domain of
reason..." ( L a k o f f a n d T u r n e r , 1989, p a g e 2 1 4 ) . T h e reluctance to accept
t h e legitimacy of metaphorical accounts and the tendency t o wish to explain
a w a y motivation within language i s n o t then c o n f i n e d to t h e area of sign
l a n g u a g e studies, b u t belongs t o a m u c h wider philosophical tradition. T h e
t y p e o f e x a m p l e p r o v i d e d h e r e m a y a u g m e n t those already described in
relation t o spoken l a n g u a g e s a n d possibly g o s o m e small way t o redress the
balance.

O n c e w e a c c e p t t h a t metaphorical m o r p h e m e s d o operate in the language,


then w e c a n b e g i n t o explore their functioning within word-formation. It

should b e clear f r o m t h e s e t s of e x a m p l e s presented so far that metaphors

c o m p l e m e n t c l a s s i f i e r s and o t h e r motivated f o r m s in the language. Although


n o t c o n f i n e d t o non-concrete meanings, metaphors c a n , in a sense, begin
w h e r e c l a s s i f i e r s leave o f f . W h i l e metaphorically-based m o r p h e m e s can be

u s e d f o r concrete meanings, m e t a p h o r s c o m e into their o w n with respect to

t h e expression of abstract concepts. Because sign language discussions of


p r o d u c t i v e m o r p h o l o g y h a v e tended t o c e n t r e o n classifier f u n c t i o n s , the
pr oductive r o l e of metaphor h a s r e m a i n e d largely unrecognised. Many of t h e

e x a m p l e s q u o t e d in this chapter a n d in the following table represent new 'es


tablished' f o r m s (such a s T H E O R Y a n d M I C R O W A V E ) or productive usage,
such a s t h e "sucked in" e x a m p l e s o n p a g e s 111 a n d l l 2 (see end of chapter
three f o r discussion of c o m p a r a b l e e x a m p l e s in relation t o classifiers) In
t h e s e a n d later e x a m p l e s , w e c a n o b s e r v e that B S L will a l w a y s p r e f e r a

motivated t o a n arbitrary f o r m a n d it is essentially this motivation which


triggers n e w f o r m s .
SUBSTITUTE, U
ND M
ET interchanging: expressing notions of transference and substitution.
0 C>x t C < x " MORPH TRANSFER

SWAP, TYPBEu. the hands interchange ie. each replaces 'the other in its original
0 Fx)i F" o x position'-shown by the movement symbol.
EXCHANGE,
0 BA> B A < '*

RE-ALLOCATE
0 BXA B X A '*

SUBSTITUTE SWAP

ASSESS, U
ND M
ET weighing (ie. scales): expressing meanings relating to assessment,
0 ATO-L AXIX
#/w judgement, evaluation and comparison (compare English: "weigh
JUDGE, the pros and cons" and "give due weight to the evidence").
0 B a iB a i MORPH WEIGH

EVALUATE, T*PREAL the hands move up and down in a repeated alternating movement.
U C TA H 0 B a i B a x" " '
COMPARE
_ i
0B a i B a i * *

ASSESS JUDGE
UND MET d r a w o u t (as in drawing o u t t h e string of a bow): expresses notions E L I C I T ,
n
T
relating t o drawing o u t f r o m a source, exerting a moving, pulling o r 0 V a x v-ox "
attracting f o r c e (compare English uses of "draw out"). LURE,
MORPH D R A W O U T 0 V a x V"O_L T

TYP REAL the f i n g e r s bend a n d simultaneously m o v e towards t h e body. ATTRACT,


D
0 V a x VXPX n

COMPREHEND/TAKE-IN
8
-
n
V a x V a x n

ATTRACT COMPREHEND

UND MET t e a s e o u t : expressing abstract notions relating to the separating and R E S E A R C H ,


V * '
sorting out of ideas e t c . . . 0 V>A V < A X

MORPH T E A S E O U T ANALYSIS,
TYPREAL an initial coming together a n d then separation of the t w o hands, 0 V>A V<A^V ^

sometimes accompanied by nodding a n d produced in an alternating T E A S E O U T ,


D HI
manner. 0 v-o> v-o< *

EXPLORE
U GTA * // 0 v>A v<A^" v

RESEARCH ANALYSIS
MODIFICATION, U
ND MKT positional c h a n g e : expressing notions of change and alteration.
U
0TA X X< * MORPH C H A N G E

RADICAL CHANGE, TYP HEAL twisting or nodding action while the two hands interchange.
0 A a > AXA"

ALTERNATION,
0 Fa> Ftox 1 '* 5
VARIATION
0 CA> X GX>_L

MODIFICATION RADICAL CHANGE

GLITTER, , UNDMET physical q u i v e r i n g : expressing tremulous light as in shimmering


[ i )
0 5>A 5<A * and glistening.
SPARKLY, MORPH S H I M M E R

0 5 T < {
' TYP REAL repeated wriggling movement of the spread fingers and/or short
REFLECTION, repeated twisting movements of the 5 hands from the wrists.
C 5TA *

SHIMMER
0 5 T>_L 5-OX *

SPARKLY SHIMMER
U
ND M
ET p r o d d i n g : physical prodding or jabbing linked with notions of goad- PROVOKE,
ing, provoking and abusing people. 0 G>v , c > v
MORPH P R O D G E T A T ,

typ real firm movements of the G hand. 0 C t j x g^ox


ABUSE,
0 C-ox Gx>x V A/

ACCUSE
0 C "ox - G i

PROVOKE ABUSE

U
ND M
ET i m p a c t : expressing meanings linked with physical, emotional or HIT ME,
mental impact. 13 (G>A , AT< * )
Morph HIT PRESSURISE,
TYPREAL closed fist A hand making firm contact with l e f t (usually C ) hand. G>A A < X T
X
" "

EMPHASISE,
X
G>A A < X ; *

SOCK IT T O THEM
0 (G>A A < x , L'" ) "

HIT M E EMPHASISE
pick up: expressing notions of picking, choosing, m a k i n g selections.
CHOOSE, UND M E T

MORPH PICK UP
0f x AI T , ]

TYP REAL closing action of finger and t h u m b , o f t e n using the F handshape.


SELECT,
a
_ = = (1 5 [ " 1 )
0 F-LA FXA "

SELECTIVITY,
[fr]
0 h > x , ?x>x

A RBITRA R Y
ri
[J eF T<

ARBITRARY
SELECTIVITY

UND MET impulses: expressing intermittent signals a s in digital displays.


DIGIT AL ,
X MORPH PULSATE
0 5T A '
TYPREAL repeated wriggling movements of bent, spread fingers.
DIGITAL R E A D O U T ,

0 5a x 5a x

DIGITAL D I S P L A Y ,
GT> 5T A

DIGITAL W A T C H
TO 5 a < * *

DIGITAL DISPLAY
DIGITAL R E A D O U T
UMM
. ET r e s i s t a n c e : expressing m e a n i n g s associated with physical or mental R E S I S T ,
0 AXA AXA J
"
resistance.
PREVENT,
MORPH R E S I S T A N T ^

rvpreal a short, f i r m m o v e m e n t a w a y f r o m t h e b o d y . 0 ( G t > x A x a t) x


ORAL CONTRACEPTION,
O F T A ft <Z)\GT> X AXA ,)

STRUGGLE
TM
0 ATA , ATA V

PREVENT
RESIST

UND MET s q u a s h : expressing m e a n i n g s associated with destruction a n d wiping D E S T R O Y ,


0 5 a > v 5-ox
out.
WIPE OUT,
MORPH S Q U A S H _ V ^

TYP REAL a f i r m , s o m e t i m e s twisting contact, between t h e t w o hands. Bax b t < ,


SABOTAGE,
0 5a> 5t>x " t

CRUSH
_ * V
x
0 5a > 5r>

WIPEO U T
DESTROY
BLOSSOM, UND M
ET blossom: expressing meanings associated with blossoming, develop
[]
C>x OCX-L ing and coming to fruition.
IMAGINE, MORPH B L O S S O M
;
^ O >A D
[,] TYP REAL gentle opening of the hand(s).
CONJURE U P ,
n [ C L ]
0<A x 0 > A F

CLEVER
g[]
O < A

CONJUREU P

OPPRESS, U
ND M
ET p u s h d o w n : expressing meanings associated with oppression and
O
g T A x 5 X A 1 suppression.
DOMINATE, MORPH P U T D O W N

0 GTA X 5X>< V
TYP REAL pushing down of l e f t hand by firm action of right hand.
OVERWHELM,
O V
GTA 5.LA T * *

DEPRESS
[ ][ C A > X BTCX]*

OPPRESS DEPRESS

r 1321
chapter 5
word formation processes

"Newly coined signs are frequently based on mimetic representation of shape,


action or movement. Moreover, iconic properties of established lexical signs
are always potentially available and are exploited by signers to add dimension
and colour to their expressions. The two faces of this language of shapes moving
in space are ever present and ever provocative."
Klima and Bellugi, 1979, p34

137 |5.01 affixation


139 115 . 0 2 compounding
146 115 . 0 3 restrictions on the form of compounds
148 f 5. 0 4 motivated forms within classifier compounds
150 115 . 0 5 simultaneous compounds
151 H 5. 0 6 predictable changes in simultaneous com
pounds
152 1 5 . 0 7 . 1 classifier compounds: TOSS & TURN type
155 1 5 . 0 7 . 2 classifier compounds: JUMP DOWN MY
THROAT type
156 f 5 . 0 7 . 3 classifier compounds: evidence types
157 f 5. 0 8 simultaneous metaphor compounds?
159 15.09 produvtivity of compounding
159 H 5. 1 0 conversion
16 15.11 lexical extension
6 2
I f 5. 1 2 mix 'n match: complex signs in BSL
So f a r in this account, I have given considerable attention to the claim that
the relationship between the words of BSL and their meanings is not arbitrary
but motivated. This has been illustrated by two major classes of sign
components: classifiers and metaphor realisations.
In chapter three, I reviewed the way in which almost all the handshapes of
BSL can operate as classifiers within sign words as well as functioning in a
purely arbitrary manner. Because such classifiers operate within the main
word classes in the language - ie. nouns, verbs, adjectives - and are not
restricted to, for example, quantifier roles, they serve to fulfil a range of
major functions. One of these is within the processes of word-formation.
In chapter four, I presented numerous examples of metaphor realisations
within BSL signs. I suggested that unlike a language such a s English, (where
metaphor is indeed productive but at a different linguistic level) metaphors
provide a symbolic basis for the creation of new lexical items. Many of the
examples quoted represented relatively new usage or were one-off forms
which demonstrate the ease with which metaphorically-based items can be
both produced and understood.
In this chapter, I will examine word-formation processes in BSL, giving
special attention to compounding. Within this account we shall see that the
special characteristics of BSL make possible a unique type of process which
I am calling simultaneous compounding. T h e special characteristics include
the enormous bank of classifiers available to the signer, the similarly rich set
of metaphorically-based morphemes and, crucially, the potential for simul
taneity in the language. Once we have examined what might b e thought of as
the traditionally recognised resources for the creation of new words in the
language, further elaboration will be given of the role of classifiers and
metaphors within the productive lexicon.
In examining these processes of word-formation, it is important to keep in
mind the set of underlying rules or "default commands" which I am suggest
ing are called into operation whatever the specific process involved (see also
chapter two). T h e suggestion is that new words of BSL , like existing words,
are much more likely to be motivated rather than arbitrary:
match the selected meaning with an existing motivated morpheme (or
morphemes) in the language;
combine, a s required, two or more such morphemes;
choose an appropriate morphological process by means of which the new
form may be generated;
exploit the appropriate morpho-phonemic primes for the realisation of the
new word.
1 5.01 Affixation
U n l i k e a language such a s E n g l i s h , B S L m a k e s very little use of sequential
a f f i x a t i o n : it a v o i d s adding b o u n d m o r p h e m e s either t o t h e b e g i n n i n g s o r t h e
e n d s of w o r d s . T h u s it d o e s n o t h a v e lexical morphemes, c o m p a r a b l e t o
"de-", "auto-", "non-", "-er", "-ion" which it a d d s t o t h e b a s e f o r m of t h e
w o r d . T h e r e i s only o n e c l a s s of i t e m s in B S L which potentially h a s such a
status a n d e v e n h e r e there is a n a r g u m e n t f o r regarding these items a s
syntactic particles rather than derivational a f f i x e s .
T
O n e of t h e m o s t frequently u s e d m a r k e r s of negation is 0 Bx>x a w h e r e t h e
f l a t B h a n d twists f r o m a palm d o w n t o a palm u p position. T h e manual
m o v e m e n t i s normally accompanied b y a non-manual f e a t u r e involving a
particular m o u t h m o v e m e n t . A t the beginning of the sign, the mouth is held
a s if in position t o p r o d u c e a [v] sound and a s t h e hand twists ove r, t h e mouth
c h a n g e s t o a n [i:] shape. T h e n o n - manual e l e m e n t is o f t e n referred to
simply by "vee". T h i s marker is normally placed directly a f t e r the lexical
m o r p h e m e in su ch a w a y a s t o b e c o m e an integrated unit, rather than Ncgative i
j u x t a p o s e d a s a separate w o r d . T h u s t h e m o v e m e n t compo ne nt is usually
altered t o a l l o w a smooth transition between t h e first lexical item and the
second. In N O T S E E and N O T S A Y , f o r e x a m p l e , t h e directional m o v e m e n t
a w a y f r o m t h e signer i s r e d u c e d and t h e hand changes almost immediately
from a G hand to a B:
Xiti]
1
N O T S E E i i c T A* ' ' O B ^ X

N O T SAY o GTA / / Q B ^ X 1

* O"
3 a
NOT HEAR g<A / / 0 b-ox
In all of t h e s e c a s e s , there is s o m e reduction of t h e f o r m of t h e f i r s t
m o r p h e m e . In N O T SEE, f o r e x a m p l e , the h a n d s h a p e begins t o c h a n g e f r o m
t h e G (extended index f i n g e r ) of SEE t o a B (flat hand) very early on in the
m o v e m e n t away f r o m t h e e y e . T h i s type of smooth transition f r o m o n e
h a n d s h a p e t o a n o t h e r allows t h e t w o m o r p h e m e s t o f l o w together a n d gives
a n impression of a single u n i f i e d f o r m .

T h e h a n d s h a p e u s e d within t h e negative marker can also c h a n g e to a 5 , ie,


t h e f u l l y o p e n spread h a n d , usually depending on t h e previous m o r p h e m e .
Similarly, a t w o - handed version is normally used a f t e r a two-handed sign.
In t h e two-handed signs:
NOT INTERESTED [] 5T> 5T< *//0 5-ox 5^>x*
a
NOT READY [] 5 X 5T>< *
t h e negative m a r k e r uses t w o 5 hands, matching the t w o 5 handshapes used
in the f i r s t m o r p h e m e . T h e 5 h a n d s perform t h e s a m e twisting action a s that
used b y t h e single B h a n d . It i s probably b e s t then to s e e this a s a phonetic
variant, i n f l u e n c e d b y the handshape(s) in t h e previous m o r p h e m e .
T h e r e a r e various d i f f e r e n t w a y s of expressing negation in B S L - t h e
Edinburgh BSL Project (Brennan and Colville, 1984) suggested there were
a t least fourteen markers of negation. T h e following negative morphemes
are all slightly different in meaning and use.The marker 0 5TA 5 T A a ' has
the meaning of "It hasn't happened yet". This morpheme includes an inherent
non-manual element: at the same time as the two open 5 hands make a short
repeated movement away f r o m the signer, the mouth is held open with the
tongue tip slightly protruding, as in the mouth pattern "th". Examples of this
marker in use are:
HAVEN'T SAID IT YET o CTA" * I , ] / 0 5TA S T A 1 '
HAVEN'T ARRIVED Y E T Ba x B a i , ** " 0 5TA S T A 1 '
V
T
a
The morpheme 0 c TA has the meaning of CANNOT as in:
CANNOT SEE U G T " / C T A 1

n
CANNOT HEAR C<A"1 / / 0 CTA
The morpheme 0 B_LA * appears to be translatable by "didn't" but often
seems to include a further meaning of "missed", ie "I missed it" meaning "
I didn't see it " or "I didn"t hear it " :
D
H A V E N ' T S A I DI T Y E T
DIDN'T SEE IT u GTAX //C B I A 1
.

n 1
DIDN'T HEAR IT C I A " ,'j 0 B.LA
It seems quite clear from the above examples that the negative markers
frequently occur after the verb form. As such they seem clear candidates for
affixes. W e know that English, for example, makes use of negative prefixes
a s in the following examples:
"a" a s in "amoral"
"dis" a s in "disobey"
"in" a s in "incomplete"
"non" as in "non-smoker"
"un" as in "unreliable"
Dahl (1979) has examined the typology of negation in approximately 240
languages (not including sign languages). In order to facilitate decisions
concerning whether negation (which he refers to as Neg)should b e regarded
a s syntactic or morphological, Dahl presents the following set of criteria:

H A V E N ' T S E E NI T Y E T
"The following factors should favour a morphological treatment:
a) portmanteau realisation of Neg;
b) prosodie unity of Neg and verb (viz they 'share' one word stress);
c) placement of Neg close to the root of the verb (i.e. between the root and
other inflectional morphemes);
d) morphophonemic alternation in the Negation morpheme.
The following factors favour a syntactic treatment:
a) movability of Neg;
CANNOTHEAR
b) prosodie independence (e.g. the Neg morpheme carries a stress of its
own);
c) in written language: orthographic separation;
d) if the Neg morpheme by itself carries inflectional affixes.
Dahl, 1979pp83-84

W h i l e s o m e of t h e s e factors a r e either not relevant o r d i f f i c u l t t o establish


within signed f o r m s , several criteria d o seem t o f a v o u r a syntactic rather than
a mor phological treatment. A t t h e v e r y least, N e g n e e d s to b e treated a s a f r e e
r a t h e r than a b o u n d m o r p h e m e . All of the e x a m p l e s given a b o v e can occur
b y themselves w i t h o u t a n a c c c o m p a n y i n g v e r b f o r m . T h u s
1
0 BTOJ.

0 5TA 5 T A X '

0 Cx A

A l l m a y o c c u r b y th emselves a s a n s w e r s in t h e following contexts:


"Is Mu riel in t h e o f f i c e ? " She's n o t there."
"Has G r a h a m arrived?" "Not yet."
Negative marker 1
" " C o m e b a c k next Frid ay." "I can't."
In this w a y , they f u n c t i o n d i f f e r e n t l y f r o m t h e negative particle in English
w h i c h usually r e q u i r e s the u s e of either the 'dummy' auxiliary "do" o r
another auxiliary o r modal auxiliary v e r b . In this sense, B S L N e g seems
m o r e m o v a b l e a n d separable than English N e g .
Similarly, B S L N e g w o u l d n e v e r b e placed closer t o t h e root of a verb than
say aspectual m a r k i n g . W e could n o t interrupt t h e repeated, end-marked
m o v e m e n t of W A I T I N G F O R A G E S A N D A G E S to insert a N e g .
Ne atlve
O b v i o u s l y , f u r t h e r f a c t o r s w o u l d need t o b e taken into account to p r o v i d e a s marker2
f u l l treatment of N e g in B S L . H o w e v e r , i t does seem that the m o s t likely

candid ate f o r a f f i x s t a t u s in B S L is, a t the very least, questionable.


It i s clear then that B S L contrasts sharply with English in that it m a k e s very
limited u s e i n d e e d of a f f i x a t i o n . O n e possibility is that B S L is resistant t o
sequential d e v i c e s f o r creating n e w w o r d s in t h e language. H o w e v e r , a s w e
shall s e e b e l o w , t h e language d o e s m a k e considerable use of sequential
c o m p o u n d i n g although i t a l s o e x p l o i t s simultaneous patterning in a highly
productive manner.

1 5.02 Compounding
C o m p o u n d i n g i s a highly productive p r o c e s s in B S L . T h i s section e x a m i n e s
various categories of c o m p o u n d a n d describes the formational c h a n g e s in
volved in putting together t w o f r e e sign m o r p h e m e s . L e t us look firstly a t a
f e w typical e x a m p l e s :
THINK KEEP REMEMBER n C < A " A a i A-o< v "
5
THINK ADD EXAGGERATE N CTA" / B a x B a x Negative marker 3
THINK L A W DECIDE /axvtT<
SEE NEVER STRANGE U G<A" * * A>x Bex ?
HEART SORE SYMPATHETIC [1 5 t < / 0 5 t < ! '
These are all examples of what I am calling sequential compounds These are
very similar in type to the compounds that occur in spoken English in that
they consist of two morphemes which can each function as separate free
morphemes in the language. T h e sign morphemes are combined sequentially
to create new lexical items with new meanings. Such compounds have a
number of formational characteristics. The signs are not simply produced
one after the other as in a sign phrase; rather there are characteristic changes
in the form of each sign.
T h e most detailed published account of compounds in sign languages is the
work of Klima and Bellugi on ASL (Klima and Bellugi, 1979). T h e analysis
they provide of ASL compounds has applications to BSL compounds too,
although there are additional types of compounding in BSL as we shall see
later in this chapter. Work by Wallin on Swedish Sign Language (Wallin,
1983) is also relevant to this discussion.
What actually happens when two words are put together to form a com
pound? It cannot be a matter of simply producing the two signs in exactly the
same way a s we would if we used them as separate elements in a sign
sentence or phrase. Imagine producing the following sentences in English:
(a) "I let the baby sit on the floor."
(b) "She lets m e babysit on Fridays."
It is quite clear to us that the production of the two words "baby" and "sit"
is quite different in sentence (a) from sentence (b). At the very least we can
notice that in (a) there is equal stress on the two words, while in sentence (b)
the main stress is on the first word. Even when the two words concerned are
part of the same phrases as in:
"I saw some blue birds this morning that I think were bluejays."
They are produced differently from the compound form:
"I saw bluebirds and bluejays this morning."
There are specific changes in the stress, rhythm and timing of morphemes in
spoken compounds which tell us that we are dealing with a single word. In
the same way, the signs in a sign compound are not simply produced one after
the other as in a sign phrase; rather there are characteristic changes in the
form of each sign.
Klima and Bellugi have noted the following major types of change in
compounds:
1. T h e movement in the first sign tends to b e shortened or reduced in some
way.
2. T h e second sign tends to lose repetition of movement, but otherwise either
retains its normal stress pattern or has added stress.
3. If the second sign makes use of the left hand a s a base, that hand tends to
take up its position at the start of the whole compound rather than simply at
the start of the second sign.
4 . The transition between the two signs tends to b e made more smooth and
fluid.
5 . T h e compound sign tends to have a similar duration to a simple sign, rather
than the duration of two signs in a phrase.
L e t us look a t each of these areas in turn in relation to BSL compounds.
1. Changes in movement in the first sign
Klima and Bellugi comment that the movements and contacts occurring in
the first element of a compound "shorten in time, reduce in length and
weaken in stress." ( K l i m a a n d Bellugi, 1979, p216). Exactly the same
patterns of reduction can b e noted in BSL compounds.
When THINK is used as an individual lexical item, there is a clearly
perceived hold either when the contact is made with the head or, if contact
is not made, once the finger has reached a position close to the head. (See
below under Theoretical Issues for further discussion of the absence of
contact in such morphemes.) In the compound forms using this same mor
pheme, the duration of the hold is considerably reduced. Indeed, the finger
is seen to approach the forehead and immediately turn to make the downward
movement. T h e hold is similarly reduced in HEAR when it is the first
element in compounds.
In the citation forms of SEE and SAY there is a definite movement away
from the signer. In the compound forms which use these signs as the first
element, this movement away may b e reduced, assimilated into the direc
tional movement required for the second morpheme or even completely
eliminated. T h u s in STRANGE, which uses SEE + NEVER, the G hand
touches the face j u s t below the eye, then immediately changes into the flat
B hand and moves downwards to brush against the left A hand. The move
ment away is, in this case, totally eliminated. In DECIDE the movement
away i s assimilated in the downward movement of the second morpheme.
STRANGE
Indeed, normally in the transcription of such signs w e do not use any symbol
f o r 'away', since the dominant movement is down. It could be argued that
since the l e f t hand is inevitably slightly in front of the body, the hand does
have to move slightly away from the body, but this is essentially a transi
tional movement. So even here, there is a tendency towards complete
elimination of the movement away.
Klima and Bellugi also note that the first sign "tends to lose its stress as
well as its repetition and becomes in effect an upbeat to the second sign"
DECIDE
( K l i m a a n d Bellugi, p216). This also seems to be true for BSL compounds.
[ 1 4 1]
Examples include:
PRETEND HIDE DISGUISE is G<A " g 1 * 1 / B>A B<A
in which the repeated movement normally found in PRETEND is reduced to
a single contact and
WORK SUPPORT SERVICE BT> B < X / 0 > J . X A<J.T *

in which a similar reduction of movement applies to WORK. However, when


we look more closely at the first signs in compounds, we see that very few
of them have repeated movement in their citation forms. The fact that s o few
of the examples in our lists make use of such signs suggests that this may b e
a constraint operating on the formation of compounds. Certainly the most
productive first signs, eg, THINK, SAY and SEE, do not have any repetition
in their citation forms.

Klima and Bellugi refer to the tendency for signs with a circular movement
to reduce in form, sometimes to the extent of becoming a simple point or
stop. They quote the ASL example:
FACE STRONG RESEMBLE
The ASL sign FACE is normally made with a large circular motion, but in
this compound form the sign "becomes a brief point in space - again
suggesting only the onset of the sign" (Klima a n d Bellugi, 1979, p216).
Interestingly enough, BSL also has a compound sign RESEMBLE with
FACE as the first element:
FACE SAME RESEMBLE C G T A / 0 C X , I CTJI""

Here, instead of the normal circular movement, the G hand makes a down
ward movement from the forehead level. At about the level of the nose, the
hand twists round and the orientation changes from palm toward to palm
down and from finger up to finger away in readiness for the contact in the
second sign SAME. The change in movement allows for a smooth, uninter
rupted transition from one sign to the other - a transition which would
otherwise be rather awkward and clumsy in production. The overall conti
nuity and fluidity of the movement produced in this way suggests that we are
dealing with a single continuous lexical item rather than two signs in a
phrase.

2. Changes in the movement of the second sign


While the loss of repetition in the second sign, noted by Klima and Bellugi
for ASL, does also occur, there do seem to be some exceptions. In signs such
as
THINK MIX CONFUSE n G<A*sC'Jf 0 B A > -o< V

SAY PRIVATE SECRET OG ^ S '// B>A B<A I


RED BLUE PURPLE o CTA Y / / B ^ x ^o< *
the repetition normally occurring in MIX, PRIVATE and BLUE is absent.
In other signs, however, the repetition remains, eg,
II n
HEAD SORE HEADACHE II v 5 T <
HEART SORE SYMPATHETIC [] 5T< *// [] 5T<
The situation is complicated by the fact that, in some cases, the second sign
in a compound is itself a modulated form. The compounds EXAGGERATE
and LIAR make u s e of ADD as the second sign. However, the form that is
used is actually the modulated form meaning KEEP O N A D D I N G . W e will follow
the convention introduced by Klima and Bellugi of adding a plus sign in
square brackets a f t e r the second sign if it is a modified form. Examples
include:
n
THINK ADD [+] EXAGGERATE GTA " // B a x B a x , *
SAY ADD [+] LIAR O GTA * ff B a x B a x , < '
[il.
n
SAY C H A T [+] RUMOUR O GTA 0 B-LA B X A *

The added stress noted by Klima and Bellugi in the second signs occurs
frequently in BSL compounds. They point out that this is often shown by
tension of the muscles and rapid movement. To these we can add an extended
final hold in such signs as: RUMOUR
// x
THINK K E E P REMEMBER N
G<A
II A a i A-o<
SAY TRUE BELIEVE N
G<A
II B a > B < xv x
II
ta [ > ] II
THINK TWIST DERANGED N
GX><
II
0 5 a. > 5 "o< :

3. Behaviour of left base hand


If the two signs which make up the compound BELIEVE were produced
separately in a phrase, the left hand required for the second sign would not
take up its position until the beginning of the second sign. However, in the
compound the l e f t hand takes up its position immediately at the beginning of
the compound. This can b e seen in several of the illustrations presented in
this section. T h e convention within the transcribed form is not to show such
phonetic detail. This anticipation is characteristic of compounds which make
use of manual tabs signs (two-handed signs in which one hand acts as the tab
or base) as the second sign. This probably adds to the overall impression of
fluidity mentioned earlier. Examples include:
V
THINK POINT CONCENTRATE <>
" C T A ' / G C L X GXA

THINK L A W DECIDE " G<A X // B a x GTA V *


DERANGED
SAY MEAN STORY o GTA " Bax BTJX '

SEE THROUGH COMPREHEND u G T A " 1 ' 1 / 0 5 T A B<A , *


4 . Transition between signs
Many of the examples already given demonstrate the way in which the
transition between the first and second signs is made smoother and more
fluid. The anticipatory position of the left hand, for example, removes the
need f o r any delay in producing the second sign. Similarly, the reduction of
repetition in the first sign allows for a smoother movement into the second
COMPREHEND
sign. Klima and Bellugi comment that the movements involved tend to be
compressed, both spatially and temporally. The BSL sign HEALTH is made
up of the signs BODY and GOOD. In BODY the B hands normally make a
downward movement while contacting the chest. In the compound form, this
movement is changed into a mere contact with the body and the hands almost
immediately begin to change into the handshape. This tendency for the
hand(s) to begin to change into the handshape(s) required for the second sign
as soon a s the first contact or movement has been made can b e seen in many
BSL compounds. Examples include:
THINK DOCTOR PSYCHIATRIST N C T A "/ T > K-OXV*

THINK W A Y CONCENTRATE CTA" " 0 B>v B<v


SEE SHOW EXHIBITION U C T A S
'* 0 B a > * Ba<*

SEE GOOD LOVELY U C T < X


/ O A T < X

The last example, LOVELY, illustrates another change that occurs in some
examples. This is where the handshape of the first sign has been changed in
form to allow a smoother transition to the handshape of the second sign. SEE

EXHIBITION normally uses a simple C hand, ie, closed fist with index finger fully ex
tended. When used in the compound LOVELY, the thumb is also extended
right from the beginning of the sign. In a rather more complex sign:
(u )
SEE A PERHAPS CHECK u V<A *j j 0 Y<A i
the first sign uses the handshape V which is relatively rare in the language.
Here the first sign is anticipating the extension of the thumb and little finger
required in the second sign, while still extending the index finger normally
used in SEE. It is, in fact, the index finger which makes contact with the face.
The index finger is then closed back into the fist as the hand moves away and
CHECK
to the right to perform the second sign in the compound. It is a s if the
lowering of one finger during this transition stage is easier to accomplish
than the raising of the finger and thumb.
There is a further change in the sign CHECK which illustrates yet another
device used to achieve a smooth transition. The sign PERHAPS is normally
made in neutral space at centre chest level, but in this case it is raised from
its normal position and performed at eye level. This spatial compression can
be seen in:
UGLY
SEE A FIND IDENTIFY U G<A X
/O A 5<_L F
F T W

TOOTH A SORE TOOTHACHE O CTA 1


j j C 5 R <
'

A 1
FACE BAD UGLY OCta^JCIT
A S U ]
T H I N K G R A S P U N D E R S T A N D R > c < A / C ' 5 X A "

In all of these cases, the second sign is made at face level rather than in
neutral space because of the position of the first sign. This compresses the
amount of space needed and at the same time reduces the overall amount of
time required to produce the sign.
UNDERSTAND
5. Duration of sequential compounds
The detailed work on the timing of ASL compounds carried out by Klima
and Bellugi's team showed clearly that when two signs were produced in a
compound, the compound form took approximately half as long to produce
a s the sum of the two separate, simple signs. They calculated the relative
durations by counting the number of video fields within each sign. Thus for
the signs G O O D , ENOUGH and G O O D ENOUGH (HARDLY A T ALL) their
figures were:
GOOD 2 8 fields
ENOUGH 49 fields
G O O D ENOUGH 38 fields
Using timing data on 7 0 compounds and their component signs, they were
able to demonstrate this overall reduction in time. For one signer, they found
that the mean duration of simple signs was 39 fields, while the mean duration
of compounds was 37 fields. For a second signer, they found that the mean
duration of the simple signs was 50 fields, while the mean duration of the
compounds was 4 4 fields. Thus, despite individual differences in the rates
of articulation, the overall contrast between simple and compound signs
remained. They were also able to note a further clear patterning of reduction
in that the first sign in a compound was always drastically reduced a s
compared to the second sign. They found that the mean durations of the first
signs were 8 fields for signer 1 and 10 fields for signer 2, while the mean
durations of the second signs were 20 and 24 fields respectively. As the
durations of the transitions between the signs in the compounds were also
relatively short, ie, 9 and 10 fields, this meant that the temporal weighting
was given to the second sign. This was the case even where the first sign was
what Klima and Bellugi term the 'semantic head'. In most ASL compounds,

the second sign has what w e might think of as the primary meaning. In:
SLEEP A DRESS NIGHTGOWN
DRESS is the head because NIGHTGOWN is a form of dress. In some
examples, however, the first sign carries the semantic weight, eg:
THIEF A HOLD-UP A N ARMED ROBBER
Even here, the patterning seen in other compounds held true and both SLEEP
and THIEF were drastically reduced a s compared with DRESS and HOLD
UP.
Lars Wallin (1983) has noted similar results for Swedish Sign Language.
He points out that although the time required to perform the signs varied
according to the signer, the pattern was always constant: the isolated sign
took longest to produce; the same sign as part of a two sign phrase took less
(for some signers, about half the time of the isolated sign) and the sign as part
of a compound took least time of all. By further examining individual
morphemes such a s LEKA (English "play") a s it occurred in both first and
second positions in a compound, Wallin was able to see that it was the
position of the sign which was crucial. Thus LEKA in LEKA SAND
(PLAYSAND) was more reduced than LEKA in BARN LEKA (CHILDPLAY).

Within BSL, it is possible to note a similar reduction in the duration of the


first sign. Thus for one signer, the production of SEE required twice the
amount of time in the sign phrase SEE NEVER as it did in the compound
form:
V

SEE NEVER STRANGE u G < A X* * A>x B<x?

Similar results were found for THINK in THINK KEEP and


3 v
THINK KEEP REMEMBER G<A *// A a x A-o< "
n X v
SAY TRUE BELIEVE G<A // Ba> B<x *
Given the type of changes in the first sign, particularly the shortening of the
movement and the absence of hold, such findings are hardly surprising.

Restrictions on the form of compounds 5.03 1


An examination of the examples illustrated so far demonstrates an interest
ing aspect of the structure of compounds: the first sign is frequently made
at the head, while the second sign is made either in neutral space or uses the
left hand as a base. If we look at the compounds illustrated in Klima and
Bellugi's chapter on compounds, we find that a very similar picture emerges.
Friedman and Battison (1973) have commented that in ASL not all possible
sequences of location are used in signs involving more than one contact.
Thus while the patterning:
head trunk
head arm
head hand
are typical, the patterns:
trunk head/arm/hand
arm head/trunk/hand
hand trunk/arm
are not used. They also suggest that the sequence:
hand head
is common. In our data, this pattern can occur, but it seems to be relatively
rare. Thus STUDY
D j [ l ] *
COPY ABSORB STUDY BTA X B_LA T nB_LA
makes use of a hand location in the first sign, followed by a contact with the
head in the second sign.
Of course, many compound signs do not involve contact in both the com
ponent signs. Frequently occurring patterns make use of a two-handed sym
metrical sign located in neutral space a s the second morpheme or a one-
handed sign, similarly located. Typical examples are:
W
THINK FIND UNDERSTAND " 5 I A
w
SEE FIND IDENTIFY U g<a " / g>a 5<x t "
[ ] 1
SEE H O W EXHIBITION Uc t a " S ' / / 0 b a > * b a <
1
THINK AWAY C O N C E N T R A T E u c t a > / 0 b > v b<v
Certainly, t h e overall tendency in B S L compounds i s f o r movement away
f r o m the b o d y rather than towards: t h e first sign most frequently h a s a head
location and m uch l e s s frequently a body, hand or neutral space location.
T h e second sign most typically h a s a hand o r neutral space location.
O n e frequently used compound in B S L is t h e f o r m :
NIGHT GOOD GOODNIGHT a hTA' / / 0 AT*1
T h i s i s an e x a m p l e of wha t Wallin would term an 'English influenced'
compound in that i t s e e m s to b e a 'loan-translation' of the English f o r m ,
rather than a c o m p o u n d unique t o B S L . T h u s the BSL compound
G O O D N I G H T contrasts with S T R A N G E (SEE N E V E R ) and E X A G G E R
A T E ( T H I N K A D D ) which have n o parallel f o r m s in English. W h a t i s
fascinating about the B S L compound G O O D N I G H T is that the order of the
t w o elements h a s been changed f r o m that in English. T h i s change i s probably
conditioned b y the tendency described a bove f o r the first sign to b e produced
a t head level a n d t h e second sign to b e a t a lower leverl. In this sense, it is
comparable to:

FACE GOOD HANDSOME


FACE BAD UGLY
a n d a l m o s t a l l t h e o t h e r signs mentioned above. Wallin quotes a similar
example f o r Swedish Sign Language: apparently the compound used to
UGLY
express the p l a c e n a m e 'Bollns', a town in Sweden, exploits similarities
between the written word a n d t w o separate words of the Swedish language,

'boll' meaning 'ball' a n d 'nasa' meaning 'nose'. T h e resulting sign compound


is:
NASA BOLL BOLLNS
Wallin n o t e s t h a t a s t h e sign N A S A i s at a higher level than B O L L , the order
i s reversed. H e n o t e s that this version of the compound is used even when
t h e signer i s simultaneously mouthing the Swedish word "Bollns". Exactly
t h e same thing occurs in B S L : t h e signer frequently mouths "goodnight"
while signing N I G H T G O O D . Such usage shows the strength of this
particular formational pattern in B S L compounds.
Wallin also m a k e s o n e f u r t h e r relevant observation concerning N A S A
BOL L : he points out that N A S A is a one-handed sign. He comments that:

"In genuine compounds the first sign always has a single articulator."
Wallin, 1983, p64
T h i s generalisation is largely t r u e f o r B S L t o o . A qui c k g l a n c e through t h e
illustrations a n d notations of the B S L c o m p o u n d s presented a b o v e will show
that they virtually all have a one-handed sign a s t h e f i r s t sign c o m p o n e n t of
t h e c o m p o u n d . H o w e v e r , there a r e s o m e exceptions. T h e m a j o r i t y of t he s e
exceptions belong t o t h e loan-translation category me nt i one d a b o v e , eg:
SIGN LANGUAGE SIGN LANGUAGE 0 5 > x , 5<x
>
B A > 5 A < *
D

MIX W I T H INTEGRATE 0 BT> , BT< V'jJ


_ * [] X
0 5 & 1 5CXJ."

Motivated f o r m s within classifier c o m p o u n d s 5.04 K


A n examination of sequential c o m p o u n d s demonstrates that motivated
m o r p h e m e s occur f r e q u e n t l y . It seems, in f a c t , that symbolic locations a n d
metaphorical m o r p h e m e s a r e both highly produc t i ve . T h e f i r s t m o r p h e m e in
m a n y c o m p o u n d s expresses either a symbolic o r physically relevant location
a s in t h e following example s :
n X
THINK c TA
HEART [] BT< "
X J
S E E U G T A -

U
S A Y O O T A

3
HEAR G<A *
Indeed w e can n o t e c o m p o u n d s in which both parts exhibit associative links
between f o r m and meaning:
n 1
THINK GOOD UNDERSTAND GT< " / C T <
HEART GOOD KIND BT> BT< )'/
0 A T < X

M a n y sequential c o m p o u n d s m a k e use of combinations of metaphor mor


phemes. T A K E OVER or ANNEXE makes use of the SPREAD and GRASP

morphemes. O R G A S M makes use of EMIT plus SPREAD. V O L C A N O also uses


EMIT a s t h e first element, with the opening action expressing the initial
eruption, w h i l e t h e second e l e m e n t f o c u s e s o n the spreading d o w n w a r d s of
t h e lava. An alternative sign makes use of t h e wriggling which s e e m s t o
suggest both spreading and f l o w i n g . T h i s can a l s o b e seen in t h e sign
H Y P N O S I S in which t h e metaphorical m o r p h e m e s express both t h e source
of p o w e r and the flowing forth of t h e p o w e r f r o m t h e e y e s :

SPREAD GRASP ANNEXE 0 5v 5v t *


A [>]
E M I T SPREAD ORGASM [] OTA OTA S
A[..] D
D
EMIT FLOW VOLCANO 0 OIA i x 0_LA X
E M I T F L O W (at e y e s ) HYPNOSIS U O I A O I A ["]i
A c o m p o u n d form w h i c h expresses t h e meaning 'discard' m a k e s u s e of a
combination of the GRASP (produced b y the closing hand action) and GIVE U P
(produced b y t h e o pening action of t h e hand) m o r p h e m e s . In the c o m b i n e d
f o r m , t h e closin g action is o f t e n accompanied b y a f i r m directional move
m e n t a n d t h e o p e n i n g action b y a f i r m downward m o v e m e n t . In A B O R T I O N
t h e sign b e g i n s a t t h e a b d o m e n w i t h t h e g r a s p element articulated w i t h a firm
m o v e m e n t a w a y f r o m t h e b o d y . T h e g i v e u p e l e m e n t is articulated with a f i r m
d o w n w a r d m o v e m e n t . A n alternative sign meaning 'abortion' a l s o makes u s e
of t h e DISCARD metaphor b u t replaces the abdomen location b y a l e f t hand
location. T h e u s e o f the discard m e t a p h o r contrasts with t h e u s e of the
disappear m e t a p h o r in the s a m e location; this f o r m suggests a n inadvertent
3 7 5

loss, i e 'miscarriage' r a t h e r than intentional loss. A similar contrast can b e


seen in t w o s i g n s p r o d u c e d a t t h e head location. T h e f i r s t m e a n s something
like 'disregard' i e throw a w a y ideas, w h i l e t h e second, which uses the
DISAPPEAR metaphor means t o 'inadvertently forget', ie "it just went out of my
head".

/ ' Q o v l 1: ' W
[ A ] ,
1
ABORTION1 W 5T?
[ J D , / I [ , ]
ABORTION2 5>x , 5<x T u 5 > x , Ox>x
ABORTION
[ii]
MISCARRIAGE W B>v B <V
nn >te]> / / G
O-ox W
DISREGARD 5T<* //
FORGOT B>x B <v*
COMPLETELY SLIPPED M Y MIND
* i t]
N N
G<A*/ / B > x S a x

O n e sign which m e a n s 'extreme a n n o y a n c e ' involves producing t h e grasp


action a t t h e h e a d , a s if r e m o v i n g everything f r o m t h e h e a d , a n d then
articulating t h e g i v e u p m e t a p h o r with a firm upward m o v e m e n t . T h i s
a p p e a r s t o b e a metaphorical combination perhaps b e s t expressed by the
Glaswegian ex pressio n "to lose t h e heid":
LOSE THE HEID
I t i s clear t h a t a s well a s t h e types of metaphorical compound mentioned
a b o v e , there a r e n u m e r o u s mixed f o r m s , i e combinations of d i f f e r e n t types
of m o r p h e m e within o n e w o r d . Indeed s o m e e x a m p l e s of this type have
already been men tioned in p r e v i o u s sections. T h e s e m a y consist of c o m b i
nations of arbitrary signs, classifiers, metaphors, signs with associated form-
m e a n i n g links a n d s o o n . H o w e v e r , it does seem that classifiers play a
limited r o l e within sequential c o m p o u n d s (see f u r t h e r below). Additional
e x a m p l e s of t h e s e m i x e d combinations include:
WEALTH SPREAD PROSPERITY [] B a > B a? j j
0 5"ox , 5x3^
ILLNESS SPREAD EPIDEMIC [] 1 <x> i a<* J J
0 5 - o x 5TJX x
K
O I
DIFFICULT MIX COMPLICATED B > x x AT>XV

COMPLICATED
0 5ax
HARD CONCENTRATE INTENSIVE B>_L I A < A

0 B >-L B < X J"

x//
HUNGER BAD-ALL-OVER FAMINE LJ B T V B T V
/ /
> T
0 >A I I<A
"JSW / ///
THINK A MIX CONFUSED
0 5 <x> 5 "O<
N
THINK MESH A
CONFUSED G<*[']"
*
0 5 *O> 5 T
OJ . F *

These and other examples appear to demonstrate yet again the extent to
which motivated forms are the preferred elements within sequential com
pounds.

Simultaneous compounds 5.05 1


Virtually all of the work that has been carried out on compounding in sign
languages has been based on the assumption that sign compounds are similar
in type to those that occur in spoken languages. This is certainly true for the
INTENSIVE

sequential compounds which are described above. However, research on a


large number of vocabulary items in BSL has led to the conclusion that there
is a further very important type of compounding which I am calling simulta
neous compounding 1 . In this process, individual signs of the language are
combined, not one after the other in a temporal sequence, as in English, but
simultaneously. Of course, we know that such a process would b e impossible
in English; we cannot utter two words at exactly the same time and even if
we tried, the results would be incomprehensible. The process is probably
inherently impossible in spoken languages generally (see under Theoretical
Issues f o r further discussion). However, the modality of sign language
'spy
allows such a process to operate and BSL exploits this possibility to a

hrr
considerable extent.
There appear to b e two major categories of simultaneous compounds. T h e
first, noted initially by Colville, consists of compounds which make use of

. fr
classifiers as the individual components. T h e second category is made up of
simultaneous combinations of metaphor morphemes. This group only be
FAMINE
came apparent after detailed examination of the operation of numerous meta-
l This term w a s first applied t o classifier c o m - phor morphemes in the language. Initially it was thought that potentially any
pounds b y Martin Colville during the work on the t w Q e s t a bjj s h e ( j signs of the language could b e produced simultaneously. It
EdinburghB S L Project. Ia m grateful t o Martinf o r
may be useful to examine this within the context of the sign VISTEL and
extensive discussion of a range of examples.
MINICOM.
Let u s look firstly at the type represented by the compound sign VISTEL/
MINICOM. These are names given to a machine, developed for use by deaf
people, which allows typed messages to be transmitted along a telephone line
so that two-way communication can take place. The machine makes use of
a typewriter component and a normal telephone which is taken off the hook
and fitted into a position on top of the machine (see illustration). T h e
compound makes use of the two signs TELEPHONE and TYPE produced
simultaneously:
TELEPHONE T Y P E MINICOM 5T>.L *
There are several definite differences in form to b e observed between the
single signs when used separately and when occurring as part of the simul
taneous compound. Within the compound form: CONFUSED

1. TELEPHONE is made with the right hand rather than the left;
2 . TELEPHONE is removed f r o m its normal position on the cheek (the little
finger is normally held close to the mouth and the thumb close to the ear) to
a position in neutral space above the right hand;
3. TYPE is made with one hand, the dominant, rather than two. Otherwise the
movement, location and orientation are the same as in the single sign;
4 . T h e position of T Y P E is similar t o its citation form in that it is produced
in neutral space. However, the left hand is, in effect, acting as the base of the MINICOM

sign, in that it is stationary in space, and the right hand is placed below the
left.

K 5.06 Predictable changes in simultaneous compounds


While the precise changes which occur in simultaneous compounds vary in
detail f r o m sign t o sign, the modifications described above for MINICOM
are fairly typical. A s in the case of sequential compounds, it is possible to
make some overall generalisations about the modifications to component
signs in simultaneous compounds.

1. Most simultaneous compounds can be described formationally as 'manual


tab' signs (Brennan, et a l , 1984): the left hand acts as the base or location for
the right hand. It is the right hand alone which is active. This does not mean
that the right hand always touches the left hand: there are many different
types of hand arrangement and movement involved in manual tab signs.
2 . A two-handed sign is made with one hand. Obviously this is an essential
modification if each hand is required t o produce a separate sign.
3. T h e left hand is required to produce a sign normally made with the right
hand.
4 . T h e movement component of the sign articulated by the left hand is
normally eliminated.
5. T h e positioning of one o r both signs will be altered and new hand
arrangement patterns used.
These modifications can b e seen in the different classes of signs presented
below.
The MINICOM group was initially seen as consisting of compounds which
combined two established or frozen forms. TYPE and TELEPHONE seem to
b e signs of this type, despite their classifier origins. However, there seem to
be severe limitations on the productivity of forms of this type. One reason
f o r this could be the constraint that, in general, two-handed signs adapt
towards greater symmetry. While this rule seems to apply more directly and
systematically to two-handed signs where both hands are active, it does also
influence the patterning of manual tab signs. Some versions of the sign
MINICOM have been noted in which the two Y hands are used without any
movement in the right hand. Clearly this is contrary to the pictorial origins
of the sign, but is an example of the strong pull of symmetrical patterning
within the language. However, given that non-symmetrical patterning does
occur in other manual tab signs, this cannot b e the only reason for the low
productivity of this category.
A more important condition seems to relate to the fact that we are here
concerned with signs which have specific rather than more general mean
ings. BSL rarely brings together signs with specific meanings to form simul
taneous compounds, even though the gestural medium would allow this to
happen. Why then does the language tend towards the use of classifier signs
within compounds? O n e possibility is that such signs are typically simple in
structure and thus allow for combination without doing too much' harm' to
the original sign. W e noted above that the movement parameter is normally
eliminated in the left-hand classifier sign. While we can argue that it may be
possible to isolate a citation form of a classifier such as PERSON

v
O G < A and specify a particular movement, the PERSON C L enters into so
many different types of structures that we expect the movement to change.
Indeed it is part of the function of this kind of classifier to be used as an
element of verbs of movement and location and thus to combine with
different types and combinations of movement.

Even more important is the fact that classifier information is essentially


presented by the configuration of the hand(s). Given that handshapes alone
provide chunks of meaning and given that we happen to have two hands, it
seems that the most obvious way of combining chunks of meaning is to use
two handshapes simultaneously. Indeed it would be odd and inefficient if the
language did not operate in this way. It seems, in fact, that the classifier is
inherently more adaptable than other classes of sign and this is probably why
it occurs so productively in simultaneous compounds.

Classifier compounds: TOSS AND TURN type 5.07.1 H


This is by far the most productive category of simultaneous compounds.
These have been labelled Simultaneous Double Classifier Compounds (Bren
nan,1986). T h e patterning here is that both of the separate morphemes which
m a k e u p t h e sign a r e f r e e l y occurring classifier signs in t h e language. T h e
first sign in the compound T O S S A N D T U R N is the B - F L A T SURFACE-CL . The
second is t h e V - L E G S - C L . T h e B - F L A T SURFACE-CL acts a s the base of the sign
a n d t h e V - L E G S - C L , placed horizontally, performs a twisting action on t o p of
t h e B h a n d . T h e m e a n i n g that results f r o m this combination is T O S S A N D
T U R N . It i s worth noting that, j u s t a s in sequential c o m p o u n d i n g , k n o w l e d g e
of the t w o separate f o r m s alone, ie, FLAT SURFACE and L E G S , would not neces
sarily allow u s t o a r r i v e a t a correct interpretation of the m e a n i n g .
A s this is b y f a r t h e m o s t p r o d u c t i v e group of simultaneous c o m p o u n d s , it
i s worth l o o k i n g a t a n u m b e r of examples:
PERSON
? M
CUT BARBER G>A VT< , '

PAPER
MESH GRAPH PAPER Bcx> 5-O.L * *
BARBER

PAPER
( )
T W O THINGS (EYES) SCAN B T A V I A , > '

PAPER
P O I N T (G) LIST

PAPER
( V )
GRAPHPAPER
P O I N T (A) PROGRAMME BTA TA T

PAPER
( 5 )
NARROW COLUMNS BTA J.A F

PAPER
CiO
P O I N T (H) REGISTER BTA HIA ,

PAPER
>
P O I N T (G) SENTENCE BT> G<X f

WATER
LEGS AQUADIVER B"o> x Vx>x X

WATER
SOLID OBJECT SUBMARINE x V<xf
AQUADIVER
GROUND
THIN THING CANNON bx x c <j. * "

GROUND
x
THIN THING ROCKET Bto> x G<X

GROUND
( - )
LEGS HOP B a > Vx>x

BED
( )
LEGS LEVITATION Ba x V a x

BED
LEGS GET UP

FLAT THING
[*]
THIN THING ASHTRAY aB x -LA

It should b e clear from the above examples, that the w h o l e range of classifier
types can b e used in simultaneous compounds. Semantic classifiers, han
dling classifiers and size and shape classifiers are all used in d i f f e r e n t c o m
binations. In order to m a k e it easier to see the relationship between the
compound and the meaning of its two component signs, I h a v e sometimes
given a slightly more specific gloss to a generalised classifier in the list
above. T h u s I have used the glosses G R O U N D , B E D , W A T E R and P A P E R ,
although a l l of the signs use the B-Classifier meaning F L A T S U R F A C E . T h e
generalised meaning F L A T SU R FA C E is, in a sense, re-interpreted in the
compound, according to the context. T h i s reflects what happens in sign
language sentences, where the precise meaning to be allotted to the classifier
depends on the linguistic context.

W h i l e t h e same gloss is given in several items, the form of the specific


classifier can vary. Thus several examples use the V-LEGS-CL. However,
AQUADIVE R uses a bent variation, L E V I T A T I O N uses the straight form
and H O P uses a modified form in which the middle f i n g e r is slightly raised.
A pointing handshape i s used in LI ST, P R O G R A M M E , REGISTER and
S E N T E N C E , but different choices are m a d e f r o m amongst the set of pointing
handshapes: C f o r LIST; f o r P R O G R A M M E ; H f o r REGISTER and C
for SENTENCE.

T h e a bove examples illustrate the changes outlined earlier in relation to the


simultaneous compounding of signs. All a r e manual tab signs, with the l e f t
hand remaining stationary while the right hand p e r f o r m s some action in
chapter five word formation processes mary brennan word formation in BSL
relation to the l e f t hand. Movement is eleminated from the left hand sign

H 5.07.2 Classifier compounds -JUMPED DOWN MY THROAT type


It is possible t o distinguish a further group of simultaneous compounds
which may b e called metaphorical simultaneous classifier compounds.These
are distinguished from the previous examples primarily on semantic grounds. y./ V - \V \

While the signs d o indeed involve combinations of classifiers, the meanings


t J
involve metaphorical extension. T h e simultaneous compound JUMPED
DOWN MY THROAT is made up of the 5-PERSON CL and the V - L E G S CL: JUMPED DOWN M Y THROAT

PERSON
LEGS JUMPED DOWN MY THROAT
T
GXA F V T A *

The PERSON classifier is held stationary in neutral space and the right hand
moves forward in a sharp movement so that the V hand encloses the index
finger of the l e f t hand. W e could guess at a meaning for this sign which
related to the idea of physical attack. However, what is interesting here is
that rather than the literal meaning, the compound has taken on a metaphori
cal meaning: the notion of physical attack is used to represent the idea of
verbal attack. It s o happens that in English we have a phrase "jumped down
my throat" which is very similar. When we use that expression we d o not
mean that someone literally jumped down our throats but rather that there
was a strong verbal response. Compounds, like other words in the language,
can take on shifts of meaning, specialisation, generalisation and metaphori
cal extension (see Anderson, 1985). Certainly we see quite a number of si
multaneous compounds in B S L which can b e regarded as metaphorical ex
tensions of their more literal meanings. Further examples include:
("A")
GROUND LEGS DELIGHTED Ba> x Vt>I
GROUND LEGS POLAXED/FLABBERGASTED
[]<
B a i x fia< "

GROUND HEAD I WISH THE GROUND COULD HAVE SWAL


( }
LOWED M E U P BT x J AXA F
PERSON STROKE FLATTER C>A X B<X , S
PERSON HIT G O M A D W I T H / GIVE HELL T O
D
A
G>A , B<v * '

Such examples of metaphorical extension are similar to those we are used to


in a language such a s English. A s Jean Aitchison suggests in her account of
the mental lexicon 'Humans are amazingly good at extending the application
of words' (Aitchison, 1987, p . 143). They are different from the metaphors
discussed in chapter four and above in relation to sequential compounds,
because they are operating a t a different level. Here the meaning of the sign
POLAXED
is re-interpreted by exploiting at the same time both potential similarity and
difference:

"...the structure of metaphorical expressions can be characterised in terms


of both the divergence and the convergence of meanings...the divergent
meanings are not put together in a nonsensical expression. Instead the terms
cooperate and direct divergent meanings towards a new significance."
Hausmann, 1989, p.7

In t h e a b o v e e x a m p l e s w e could say that literal m e a n i n g s w e r e :


' j u m p o n a person'
'leap i n t o t h e air'
'fall b a c k w a r d with a t h u m p '
' m o v e one's head b e l o w a surface'
'stroke a person'
'hit a person repeatedly'
T h e s e physical meanings a r e linked t o their extended m e a n i n g s b y exploiting
similarities a n d d i f f e r e n c e s . A phrase such a s 'massage one's e g o ' appears t o
exploit a similar set of possibilities t o F L A T T E R above. A s Aitchison says,
'all w o r d s a r e f u z z y round the edges' a n d such f u z z i n e s s supports the
possibilities of extension.

C l a s s i f i e r c o m p o u n d s : EVIDENCE types 5.07.3 H


W h e n w e examine t h e lexical items of B S L m o r e closely, w e find that n o t
only d o w e h a v e sequential c o m p o u n d s and simultaneous c o m p o u n d s b u t
combinations of both types. T h e s e c o m p o u n d s are m a d e u p of three, rather
than two, f r e e m o r p h e m e s in the language. A closer look a t t w o d i f f e r e n t
c o m p o u n d signs, both glossed a s E V I D E N C E , may help t o illustrate t h e
n a t u r e of such signs. T h e f i r s t is:

SEE SHOW EVIDENCE U GTA GTA X D L " ] / / U BTA BTA *


T h i s i s a straightforward sequential c o m p o u n d , consisting of the t w o signs
S E E a n d S H O W with appropriate modifications: S E E is m a d e with t w o
h a n d s , anticipating t h e two-handed sign used f o r S H O W ; there is n o m o v e
EVIDENCE 1
ment in S E E a n d the changeover to t h e B h a n d s f o r S H O W be gi ns a s soon
a s t h e c o n t a c t f o r SEE h a s been m a d e . T h i s is the m o r e general of t h e t w o
signs in t e r m s of m e a n i n g . T h e second sign is:
v
SEE PAGE EVIDENCE U G T A * L
']// BTA B a i t

INDICATE
T h i s h a s a somewhat narrower meaning a n d r e f e r s t o written e vi de nc e , i e ,

literally shown on t h e p a g e . T h e availability of t h e t w o c o m p o u n d s allows


t h e signer t o b e quite specific, if this s e e m s appropriate. Q u i t e a n u m b e r of
EVIDENCE 2
t h e s i g n s which w e r e initially classed a s sequential c o m p o u n d s , turn o u t t o
b e m o r e p r o p e r l y , sequential simultaneous c o m p o u n d s . M o s t of t h e e x
a m p l e s f o u n d s o f a r m a k e u s e of P A G E in t h e second e l e m e n t a n d m o s t have
t h e simultaneous c o m p o n e n t in t h e second position of t h e sequential c o m
pound:
KNOW POINT
* o M // T
PAGE KNOWLEDGE <a BTA BTA

THINK POINT
* [] _
PAGE EXPERIENCE N
GTA D
"I L "B T A B T > x T
V

SAY POINT .[]


T t C 7
PAGE REPORT O GTA BTA BTA

\ ) ''bt
SAY P O I N T
n~T
PAGE DEFINITION O GTA

REPORT

R E P O R T is rather similar t o E V I D E N C E in that t h e f o r m given a b o v e is used


q u i t e specifically f o r a written r e p o r t . T h i s contrasts with t h e v e r b R E P O R T
V
o g>A g<A * w h i c h i s m a d e b y t h e t w o C hands touching the mouth, then
m o v i n g a w a y a n d t o t h e l e f t : this is a simple, rather than a c o m p o u n d sign.
T h e g l o s s P O I N T h a s b e e n used in a rather similar way t o P O I N T in the
earlier sequential e x a m p l e s in that t h e actual f o r m a n d m a n n e r of pointing
var ies f r o m sign t o sign: in K N O W L E D G E t h e right B h a n d nods down in
f r o n t of t h e l e f t B h a n d (representing P A G E ) ; in E X P E R I E N C E the G hand
i s used in a similar w a y ; in R E P O R T t h e f u l l B hand is used a n d in
D E F I N I T I O N T h e B h a n d i s p l a c e d a t right angles on t h e palm of the h a n d .
T h e c l a s s o f sequential-simultaneous c o m p o u n d s s e e m s t o b e very small.
Neverth eless t h e f a c t t h a t B S L exploits this category a t all illustrates t h e
d i f f e r e n t possibilities available within a spatial-gestural linguistic system.

5 5.08 S i m u l t a n e o u s metaphor c o m p o u n d s ?
Initially i t w a s a s s u m e d that only c l a s s i f i e r s entered into the process of
sim ultaneous c o m p o u n d i n g . Certainly, t h e r e seemed to b e limited use of
o t h e r established m o r p h e m e s . H o w e v e r , specific f o r m s h a v e been noted
which seem t o su ggest that there i s a t least the potential f o r c o m b i n i n g
m e t a p h o r m o r p h e m e s simultaneously. However, t h e status of such f o r m s a s
c o m p o u n d s i s s o m e w h a t questionable o n c e w e recall that c o m p o u n d s are
typically regarded a s c o m b i n a t i o n s of f r e e morphemes. As w e shall s e e
f u r t h e r u n d e r Theoretical Issues there is s o m e question regarding t h e status
of c l a s s i f i e r c o m p o u n d s in t h i s r e s p e c t . It is rather m o r e d i f f i c u l t to m a k e a
c a s e f o r t h e i n d e p e n d e n c e of m e t a p h o r m o r p h e m e s . T h i s is obviously t r u e f o r
those which are expressed through the movement parameter. On the other
hand morphemes such as EMIT and LINES do appear to have a claim to
independence. As w e have already seen, such morphemes can b e regarded a s
having somewhat generalised rather than specific meanings. Moreover, in
several examples, additional meaning is derived from symbolic locations. .
So far in this account it has not been made clear whether such locations
should b e regarded a s fully morphemic or not. Such forms are certainly
morpheme-like precisely because they d o add meaning. On the other hand,
it is impossible for locations to be regarded as free morphemes: they simply
cannot stand alone. What w e certainly see in the following examples is a
simultaneous combining of morphemes. The exact status of these forms is
discussed further in the section on Theoretical Issues..
)
THOUGHT TRANSFER n 5T>> f 5T>< '
is made up of three meaningful elements:
the lines metaphor expressed by both hands;
the interchange metaphor expressed by the interchanging of the two hands;
the symbolic head location .
There are several different related combinations which differ either because
one motivated morpheme is replaced by another or because fewer mor
phemes are used. THEORY makes use of the lines metaphor at the head: the
5 hand makes a to and f r o movemenet at the head. MIND O N OTHER
THINGS uses the lines metaphor but then adds a movement to the side
expressing the deviation metaphor. COGNITIVE MATCHING makes use of
the interlink and interchange metaphors again at the head.
THOUGHTTRANSFER
THEORY n 5-o< * '
( * )
n
MIND ON OTHER THINGS 5"o> 5T>< *
n
COGNITIVE MATCHING g T> C J.A F X *'
Other combinations make use of both classifier and metaphor morphemes
simultaneously. One recently noted form which could b e glossed as
TRIMMED was used within a sentence meaning ' t h e goverment has trimmed
our resources over t i m e ' . The sign was made in the following manner: two
V hands moved downwards from the right shoulder towards the centre of the
neutral space area, while at the same time the two hands moved towards each
other and closed to H hands.
W e can specify the following elements:
the CUT morpheme, based on the classifier form;
the REDUCE metaphor morpheme (ie one of the positional metaphors)
OVER TIME which can be viewed either as a positional metaphor or a temporal
inflection:
lln H]
TRIMMED " v>x v<j.
Rather simpler combinations occur in forms such as
chapter five word formation processes

D
PERSON EMIT COUNSEL C> A O a x T "

I M X
x
PERSON SPREAD INFLUENCE Ovx

A t t h e v e r y least, su ch f o r m s illustrate t h e combinational complexity of B S L


signs. T h e implications f o r morphological theory a r e discussed f u r t h e r
below.

U 5.09 Productivity of c o m p o u n d i n g
I t m u s t b e clear f r o m t h e a b o v e e x a m p l e s o f sequential, simultaneous a n d
sequential-simultaneous c o m p o u n d s that the p r o c e s s of c o m p o u n d i n g i s a
significant m e a n s of e x p a n d i n g B S L vocabulary. T h e process e n r i c h e s the
language, a l l o w i n g t h e signer m o r e choices a n d m o r e scope f o r expressing
com plexities a n d subtleties of m e a n i n g . M y impression is that the process
itself i s particularly active a t t h e p r e s e n t t i m e a n d there m a y need t o b e
f u r t h e r n e w c l a s s e s o f c o m p o u n d s in t h e f u t u r e . Klima a n d Bellugi's
c o m m e n t o n A S L c a n b e applied directly t o B S L too:

"The vocabulary of ASL is far richer than has been claimed, expanded by an
active, living process for the creation of new names from existing signs."
Klima and Bellugi, 1979, p224

f 5.10 Conversion
I s i t possible t o convert a sign belonging t o o n e word class into another? Is
i t p o s s i b l e , f o r e x a m p l e , t o convert a v e r b into a n o u n , a noun i n t o a verb,
e t c ? W h i l e t h e r e h a s been relatively little w o r k d o n e o n such conversion
patterns in B S L , it d oes seem that such derivations are possible. H o w e v e r , as
w e shall see, it i s a t least d e b a t a b l e whether w e should view relationships
b e t w e e n n o u n - v e r b p a i r s as derivational o r whether w e should regard t he s e
a s potential f o r m s which m a y o r m a y not occur in t h e language. B e f o r e
examin ing t h e theoretical issues involved it m a y b e worth looking a t s o m e
specific examples. .
A short a n e c d o t e m a y h e l p t o illustrate t h e t y p e of c h a n g e s involved within
c o n v e r s i o n . S o m e t i m e a g o , I w a s giving a lecture on word-formation proc
e s s e s i n English a n d B S L . T h i s lecture w a s being simultaneously interpreted
b y a hearing p e r s o n w h o s e o w n first language w a s B S L . At o n e point, several
e x a m p l e s of conversion within English w e r e given and it w a s suggested that
it w a s n o t y e t c l e a r whether such c h a n g e s w e r e possible in BSL. H o w e v e r ,

a s soon a s t h e e x a m p l e s w e r e produced i n English t h e interpreter automati-


1 I am grateful to Liz Scott Gibson for demon-
cally a n d without hesitation modified the examples in an appropriate way 1 . ,, . , .
strating so effectively how conversion proc-
O n e of t h e e x a m p l e s w a s a headline in a British newspaper which read: esses may work in BSL.
" M r Heseltine w a s helicoptered out of trouble."
In E n g l i s h , t h i s is a typical e x a m p l e of t h e conversion of a n o u n into a v e r b .
T h e interpreter translated this b y using o n e of t h e established B S L signs f o r
'helicopter' b u t adding a particular m o v e m e n t pattern in which both h a n d s
m o v e d u p w a r d s a n d t o t h e right in a continuous ma nne r. Within t h e n o u n
f o r m t h e right hand i s placed above the l e f t and p e r f o r m s a repeated circular
m o v e m e n t w h i l e both h a n d s m a k e a short m o v e m e n t u p w a r d s . T h e contrast
is, in f a c t , absolutely typical of that described by Supalla a n d N e w p o r t f o r
A S L n o u n s a n d verbs:

"The hand moves steadily for the verb, whereas it moves in a restrained
fashion for the noun."
Newport, 1982, p475

Having seen such a clear demonstration of conversion, i t seemed appropriate

W A R M WITH THE H E A T O F THE S U N


t o look a t other examples . P e rha ps it should b e stressed here that in looking
a t conversion in B S L , o n e f a c e s many of t h e s a m e d i f f i c u l t i e s c o n f r o n t e d by
t h o s e w h o h a v e e x a m i n e d English conversion processes. T h e main d i f f i c u l t y
i s that w h i l e w e wish t o treat this:

"... not as a historical process, but rather as a process now available for
extending the lexical resources of the language."
Quirk et al, 1985, p i 558

PLACARD
it c a n b e d i f f i c u l t to avoid the historical dimension c ompl e t e l y. T h u s in t h e
e x a m p l e a b o v e , m o s t speakers of English would recognise the verb f o r m "to
helicopter" a s a relatively new us a ge in t h e language, while in the c a s e of "to
photograph " a n d "a photograph " w e m a y b e less sure.
In B S L w e can n o t e such pairs as:
1,1
SUN 0 o-ox
1,1
T O W A R M W I T H T H E H E A T O F T H E S U N C OTA
THE SUN DRIED THE CLOTHES Brv OX>JL , D [ , ]

CAMPAIGN V
CAMERA 0 GT> X G<_L
T O FILM 0GT>XG<J.*
5
PLACARD 0 T> X AT<
T O CAMPAIGN 0 T> X AT<"
In all of these c a s e s , there d o e s seem t o b e s o m e e v i d e n c e that t h e noun f o r m
appeared f i r s t although such e v i d e n c e could probably ne ve r b e conclusive.
In both C A M P A I G N and F I L M the m o v e m e n t is longer a n d m o r e continuous
than in the equivalent noun forms. Interestingly, the language already had
t w o distinct f o r m s f o r t h e noun F I L M a s in a 'cinema f i l m ' and T O F I L M .
T h e noun form GT> 5XA u uses a wriggling 5 hand which seems to exploit
the metaphor SHIMMER. The sign relating to the act of filming makes use of a

left B hand and a closed fist as in holding a handle: B>x , A-O.L V ' The
newer forms seem to reflect the shape of newer video cameras: both forms
can b e placed a t shoulder level t o suggest the location of portable cameras.
T h e kind of contrasts shown here seem to b e common in the language (see
also Brennan, 1990b on noun-verb pairs within holding classifier forms).
Supalla and Newport (1978) have suggested that it might b e more accurate
CAMERA
to see such related forms as deriving from a common underlying base form
rather than as deriving one from another. As w e shall see, even if we can state
the evolutionary history of such forms in terms of when they were first
attested, the actual order in which they are attested could b e seen as
accidental. Both noun and verb forms are potentially available (see further
under complex signs and chapter six).

1 5.11 Lexical extension


T O FILM
T h e term 'lexical extension' covers a number of different sub-categories of
processes which allow existing signs in the language to take on new mean
ings. In many cases, although not all, such semantic extension is accompa
nied by modification of the form of the sign. In English, w e are quite familiar
with the phenomenon of existing words in the language taking on new
meanings. O n e current example is the word 'green'. If I told someone that I
recently bought a packet of 'green c o f f e e filter papers which were coloured
brown', it is probable that the other person would recognise that 'green' in
this context meant something like 'positive towards the environment'. Thus
when 'The Guardian' newspaper tells me that the government is producing 'a
white paper o n green issues', I recognise both the status of the document and
the kinds of issues concerned. It is perhaps worth noting that speakers of
English d o not find anything odd about this type of semantic extension,
although when it occurs in BSL those unfamiliar with BSL word-formation
processes sometimes think that such extension suggests a paucity of lexical
resources. In practice in BSL, there is usually some modification to the form
of the sign involved. Such modifications may involve the manual parameters
(hand configuration, location, movement, hand arrangement, contact) or
non-manual features, including head, face, body movements, lip pattern and
eye-gaze. T h e following examples all illustrate relatively recent productions
within the language which involve a modification of this kind, together with
a related semantic elaboration.

Several extensions based on the possessive meaning HIS/HER/YOUR/


THEIR have been noted. I shall simply use YOUR in the illustrative ex
amples . O n e which is now widely used is the sign CULTURE.
This produces the away movement with the right hand on the l e f t hand base
(rather than in neutral space). T h e movement i s also repeated. T h e semantic
link m a y b e seen a s something like: "Your way of behaving, your habits etc."
A
YOUR 0 AXA
THEM 0 AXA AXA *
T w o f u r t h e r signs involve non-manual modifications. In E C C E N T R I C and
IDIOSYNCRATIC both hands produce the away m o v e m e n t , usually with an

CHINESE SCRIPT
emphatic twisting movement. T h e manual movement i s accompanied by
non-manual features, which include the shoulders back and t o the side and
what might b e s t b e described a s facial 'grimace'.
A compound sign f o r N A T I V E a s in N A T I V E L A N G U A G E h a s also been
noted. T h i s involves the initial position and movement of the sign for BIRTH
followed by YOUR.
i
ECCENTRIC 0 A a x AX>X

NATIVE LANGUAGE W HT> AT<


Several other new extensions have been noted which m a k e use of non-
UNREADABLE PRINTOUT
manual features. Slight tongue protrusion as in 'th' accompanies SHAME to
give P A T E R N A L I S T I C 0 BTOA^ and L O W to give M E N I A L 0 BTJX V '

Cha nge of location may also allow f o r extension of meaning. A sign which
i s probably glossed as HIEROGLYPHICS has been noted: moving down
wards in neutral space to mean C H I N E S E SCRIPT:
( ")
CHINESE SCRIPT 0 G >A X C<A F

in neutral space moving to the right, meaning U N R E A D A B L E P R I N T O U T


(as in minicom machine) 0 c > x x G<x ^
produced at the head accompanied by the tongue protrusion non-manual
n
feature, t o mean something like G O B B L E D Y G O O K : G>A X G<A / " V ^
Aspectual modification is sometimes lexicalised to allow the production of
new lexical items. Examples include the addition of the 'regular' modifica
tion typically meaning 'to d o X regularly'. This is usually expressed by short
repeated movement in BSL. Examples of such extension include:

SELL + Regular Aspect M A R K E T (ING): Ba x T>X x "


S P E N D + Regular Aspect SPENDTHRIFT 1 : H O a x l , ]
MARKETING
P A Y + Regular Aspect M O R T G A G E : Ba x <v * '
G E T + Regular Aspect BENEFITS: 0 5c SM.

1 located at right h i p i.e. trouser pocket

Mix 'n' match: complex signs in B S L 5.12 ^


W h i l e there seems little doubt that the processes mentioned in the preceding
pages a r e indeed productive, anyone at all familiar with BSL will recognise
that such processes alone cannot account f o r the extent of lexical creativity
within the language. In order to do this, w e need to examine a f u r t h e r process,
possibly even sets of processes, which result in the production of what might
b e thought of as complex rather than compound signs. (At the moment there
seems to b e n o obvious name f o r this group. I am using the term "complex"
here in rather a different way from the way in which the term was used in
Brennan et al, 1984: there the term "complex " related to phonological com
plexity; here it relates to morphological complexity.) I have informally
entitled these "mix ' n ' match" signs following the image used within the
clothes industry. Rather than " o f f the p e g " or " o f f the s h e l f items, ie those
from the established lexicon, mix ' n ' match involves selecting the compo
nent parts and putting them together in appropriate ways in order to create
particular kinds of effect. In examining how these processes operate in the
language, w e need to see which components can be used, what kinds of
combinations may occur and what differing functions these created items
serve. Of course, this is a mammoth task and within the limitations of this
account, and indeed of our knowledge of these processes to date, I can merely
give a general indication here of the nature of this assembling of lexical
items. However, it is crucially important to stress that this is not just an
optional part of BSL morphology: everyday usage requires that we re-create
lexical items anew from their component parts as required. This is why the
notion of attested usage is s o inadequate (see further chapter six).

What then are the component parts that w e put together in such a process?
They are, of course, the components that w e have already examined in
preceding chapters. BSL makes use of different types of meaningful compo
nents, most of which are motivated in the sense discussed in chapter two.
These include classifiers, metaphors, symbolic locations and handshapes
and meaningful non-manual components. Indeed each of the parameters that
was originally thought of a s being an arbitrary component of sign production
(Stokoe, 1960, Brennan et al, 1984) can potentially carry meaning. Within
the classifier group, it is the handshape which carries the meaning; within the
metaphor group movements, changes of handshape, specific positions and
movements may all b e relevant; specific body locations and handshapes can
all carry symbolic meaning. Supalla (1982), McDonald (1982) and Schick
(1985) have all demonstrated the importance of different types of movement,
especially within the structure of verbs of existence, location and motion. In
order to get some initial sense of how these components are brought together
and how they interact, it may b e useful to examine a set of examples all of
which are made u p of separate combinable components. As well a s a simple
gloss, I will sometimes provide a further elaboration or translation s o as to
clarify the meanings and context involved:

DORMITORY 0 Ha x , H a x ( v + )
beds in rows
U
HAMMOCKS CB a i , x Bax*
in rows under the ceiling
( v )
HAMMOCKS C h t j i , htdj. -

in rows under the ceiling


*>r
LAPPING UP 1 B a x B a i 5X
the cat w a s lapping u p the milk from the saucer
GNAWING 2 0 (cx> OXA , ( A - ) ) x
the rats were gnawing at the furniture
O
LOOKED UP 3 0 J a-ox J a-ox *
the t w o boys looked u p
V
DIVED 5>A J aXA
the Iron Man dived into the sea
FELL 0 / A T A V ( )

the man fell with a thud


MOUSE-TRAP Bax Bax *
the rats saw a mouse-trap
CHEERED 4 ^ J AXA J aXA 1
GNAWING
the football supporters cheered
CARRIED 0 a>V a < v " '
the men caried the stretcher off the field
All of the above examples make use of classifier constructions, but they
d o not derive their full meaning only from the classifiers themselves. Some
actually make u s e of more than one classifier. LAPPING uses a B -classifier
f o r ' s a u c e r ' and a B-classifier for ' t o n g u e ' . Both are S ASSes. The movement
of the right hand mirrors the action involved in lapping. The repetition
MAN FELL WITH A THUD
reflects the continuous activity which is lexicalised in both the BSL sign and
1 non-manual f e a t u r e ( n m f ) : t ongue protru the English word. Some signs make use of a non-manual component.
sion.
GNAWING includes a repeated opening and closing of the mouth with the
2 n m f : mouth pattern 'na n a n a ' .
3 n m f : eye-gaze u p and t o t h e l e f t .
pattern ' n a na n a ' which seems to echo the gnawing action expressed by the
4 n m f : t h e m o u t h i s open. T h e shoulders m a k e right hand. Again the meaning seems to include a lexicalisation of aspect.
a side t o side m o v e m e n t . Some signs make use of handling classifiers. In the case of CARRIED it is
the non-manual feature of the shoulder movement which indicates that the
stretcher bearers are actually walking. LOOK U P uses not only the upward
action of the two A-SASS classifiers, but also an upward eye-gaze. The
examples meaning ' h a m m o c k s ' demonstrate that different classifier forms
can b e used f o r the same referent. In the actual story, both were used close
together: the first emphasises the curved shape of the hammocks; the second
sees them from a slightly different perspective a s narrow items in rows. In
both cases, the location of the hands in space, ie at head level, provides
additional meaning. The DIVED and FELL examples provide us with a
variant perspective on persons; they could have been viewed a s long and thin
CROSSED LEGS by using G or as having legs, V. Instead, the choice of prominent forearm
a n d A f o r h e a d e m p h a s i s e s t h e size a n d solidity of t h e p e r s o n s in question.
Sch ick(1 985) (quoted in W i l b u r , 1987) h a s developed an a c c o u n t of
d i f f e r e n t p r o d u c t i v e r o o t s which s h e claims c o m b i n e with d i f f e r e n t classifier
t y p e s t o g i v e d i f f e r e n t t y p e s of meaning a n d t o serve d i f f e r e n t types of
f u n c t i o n . S h e p r o p o s e s a root labelled M O V which is comparable t o S u p a l l a ' s
u s a g e e x e m p l i f i e d in c hapter three; a category called D O T which is a
combination of existence a n d location r o o t s a n d f i n a l l y a category called
I M I T . T h i s last t y p e according t o W i l b u r

"...is seen as an idealisation of the real-world activity, making the movement


less of an imitation and more of a 'distillation'".
Wilbur, 1987, p93

W h i l e there i s i n s u f f i c i e n t information in t h e W i l b u r text t o c l a r i f y t h e nature


a n d status of I M I T , it nevertheless a c c o r d s with an intuition that at least s o m e
of t h e accounts of classifier c o m b i n a t i o n s h a v e failed t o take account fully
o f t h e a m o u n t of info rmation relating to real-world action that is included in
s p e c i f i c c o m p l e x signs. It m a y b e h e l p f u l to explore this a little f u r t h e r by
r e f e r e n c e t o a set of e x a m p l e s which all exploit classifiers f o r legs. T h e signs
m a k e u s e o f t h e f o l l o w i n g h a n d s h a p e s ; V , V , V , C , G ,G ,H , H , a n d J A .

All can b e s e e n a s in s o m e s e n s e deriving f r o m SASS classifiers, although a s


w e s a w in chapter t h r e e , t h e V f o r m s a n d , to a m u c h more limited extent, the
H f o r m s can b e treated a s semantic classifiers. T h e relevant e x a m p l e s are
provided b e l o w ; t h e larger c o n t e x t is given underneath each gloss:
LEGS IN THE AIR 0 G i a GIA""
h e tumbled o v e r with h i s legs in t h e air
:
CROSSED LEGS G-ox G x a 5
h e p u t h i s f e e t u p a n d crossed his legs
NERVOUS1 0 G-ox G-oxJ '
she w a s very n e r v o u s
NERVOUS2 0 H - o j . HX>_L* "
the cat was nervous
I
SPLAYED 0 G_LA G TA
t h e d e a d bird w a s splayed a c r o s s . the road
A
FELL WITH A THUD V - o i 'l v m)

t h e b i r d fell f r o m t h e sky w i t h a thud


M
FELL WITH A T H U D Ba x ATA t "'
t h e person f e l l t o t h e ground with a thud
SWINGING B Y LEGS 1 0 CR> X VXA F x " 1 nmf: tongue protrusion
t h e p a r r o t w a s swin ging wildly u p s i d e d o w n o n t h e perch
LEGS DANGLING Bx x V -OJ.*
the cat's legs were dangling over the shelf
1
LEGS SWINGING T O AND FRO 0 G-OJ. GXJ_L
the e l f ' s legs were swinging to and f r o as he sat on top of the pile of books

1 n m f : lip-rounding and sucked in c h e e k s . SLID B T A VX>-L

2 n m f : head - shoulders d r a w n b a c k ; e y e s t o she slid down the steep slope


the l e f t .
GOT U P BCX-L x V OLJ . *
3 n m f : head m o v i n g f r o m s i d e t o side; e y e s
the old man got up
m o v i n g right - l e f t .
4 n m f : shoulders and head h e l d b a c k . RAN FAST 1 0 H T > I H-OJ-F '

5 n m f : lips p u r s e d f o r w a r d . the dog ran fast


WITHDREW 2 0 H-CLL HTLL '

the cat withdrew anxiously



PROWLED 3 0 H-ox H-O-L

the fox prowled warily



STROLLED MAJESTICALLY 4 0 J ATA J ATA T

the huge cat strolled majestically into the room


STROLLED 5 0 V-ox *
he strolled along
v x
SAT G t > Vx)i
the man sat down
T h e first question we should ask about the above examples is whether any
of them are part of the frozen lexicon. Are any of these "off-the-shelf lexical
items? I would suggest that several should be regarded in this way.The
obvious candidates are NERVOUS 1, G O T U P and SAT DOWN. Certainly
all are forms which I would expect to see listed in a BSL dictionary.
DOG R A N F A S T
However, if we are to follow Wilbur (see Wilbur, 1987, pp52-53) it seems
that single morpheme signs are regarded as frozen, while signs that are
composed of several morphemes are productive. There is indeed a diffficulty
here because we are juggling with a structural definition (one morpheme
versus more than one) and a rather vaguer notion of what seems to be
established and listable. W e shall return to this dilemma. For the moment, it
may b e worth focusing on one aspect of this dilemma. The second sign which
is glossed NERVOUS actually makes use of the two H hands instead of the
NERVOUS PERSON
G hands; this seems to stress that we are referring to an animal rather than
a person. The theoretical question concerns whether this should be seen as a
substitution within a productive sign or simply as a related lexical item. T h e
case f o r substitution is strong if we say that both components are recognis
able as classifiers for legs and both can occur productively in other signs.
The established nature of NERVOUS 1 is based merely on its relative
frequency in the language compared to NERVOUS2; it is quite probable that
signers refer more frequently to human nervousness than to animal nervous
NERVOUS C A T ness.

[166]
W e can note also that the movement parameter in many of these signs
provides information not so much about path or direction of movement as
about manner. Of course, sometimes the information is combined. FELL
F R O M THE SKY tells us that the path of movement was circular and
downwards; the final part of the action tells us that the bird landed with a
thud. This same information is provided in the second FELL example ; here
there is no information about path. Several of the examples provide informa
tion about both path and manner although it could be argued that path in these
BIRD FELL WITH A THUD
cases actually links in with notions of manner. Thus in STROLL the side to
side movement away does not indicate that the person moved away in a side-
to-side fashion, but that the direction of movement was unimportant and
unplanned. Of course, we partly know how to interpret the directional
movement because of the non-manual features. Similarly, the alternating
toward movement in PROWL tells u s that the animal was moving forward,
but the measured pacing of the movement together with the non-manual
features tell us that the animal was moving in a stealthy fashion.

This leads u s on to a further theoretical issue. Should such forms be regarded


a s verbs with accompanying non-manual adverbials or should w e see them as
complete lexical items expressing a verb which provides information about
what is moving and how it is moving? In English, some manner information
is lexicalised j u s t a s some kinds of aspectual information are lexicalised.
Verbs such as "prowl", "saunter", "stroll", "meander" all contain informa
tion about manner, although we may prefer to use a more periphrastic type
of structure, such as "move stealthily", "move silently and secretly", "move
PROWL
casually and leisurely" and so on. If we take the view that this type of verb
form is re-assembled, as required, from a range of potential components,
then in a way it seems odd t o treat the non-manual components a s part of
syntax, b u t the manual components a s part of morphology. Of course, within
specific examples w e may also need to look at the scope of the non-manual
component. Does it have the same duration a s the other verbal components,
f o r example? Certainly if manual movements such as twisting, nodding,
wriggling etc. can be used to provide such manner information, and if these
are seen as optional meaningful components, then it seems quite appropriate
to regard optional meaningful non-manual components as part of the verb-
form as well. Additionally, in some cases it would be very odd indeed to
exclude a non-manual component. In the example glossed as SPLAYED, the
signer is referring to a dead bird which is lying dead on the road with its legs
pointing in opposite directions; the signer makes use of a non-manual
component in which the tongue protrudes. It would be very odd indeed to
produce the manual component with a neutral facial expression.
SPLAYED
Even such a small set of BSL signs provides us with a hint of how the
creation or re-creation of signs operates in the language. In a very real sense
w e invent the precise sign w e require by making use of the meaningful
components in the language. T h e choices available mean that w e can focus
on different aspects of the referent, action or state depending on what we
wish to stress. Is this also true for other signs besides classifier signs; does
re-invention (mix 'n' match) apply to these also? Again a set of examples
may provide a small hint of the enormous resources availably:
(5 ] Un] -
CONNIVE 0 ht a h .la / S >
the rats plotted and connived among themselves
n 1
SYCOPHANTIC Bta Bta
he got his own way by being incredibly sycophantic
ANXIOUS 5t> x 5 t < Su a ] *
everything is bottled up inside me
VERY ANNOYED [] G a > , G a < "
boiling with rage
COINED " g t aGTAr'
she coined (invented) lots of new signs

GRINDING 0 5 a >5 ^ ^ '
the Iron M a n ' s insides were grinding together
n 1
COGNITIVE PROCESSES 5 v > 5x><
we need to understand cognitive processes
5
LOCKED IN BATTLE 0 lt a , t a
they were locked in battle
1
DISCRIMINATION gta bia ,
it was a case of discrimination against Deaf people
HEADLIGHTS MOVING 0 5ia sia''1''
the car moved along the winding road its full headlights (picking out aspects
of the countryside)
If we look at the above examples, it seems clear that we are dealing with
combinations of meaningful items which have been assembled in ways which
may or may not have been used before. Several of the signs make use of
metaphor morphemes and/or symbolic handshapes. CONNIVE uses a classi
fier-based handshape along with an INTERACTION morpheme and a repeated
movement suggesting 'over time'; SYCOPHANTIC again uses a lexicalisa
tion of aspect: the sign could be translated literally as "showing respect again
and again and again - the non-manual feature stresses the obsequious nature
of this respect; ANXIOUS makes use of a variation of the GRASP metaphor
meaning something like 'hold tightly' - this is then placed at a location
associated with emotions and the repeated action stresses that this is an
ongoing emotional state; VERY ANGRY transfers the classifier based
established sign BOILING to the symbolic location of the chest; GRINDING
and COGNITIVE PROCESSES both make use of the same MACHINE mor
pheme which can itself be seen a s a metaphorical extension of a classifier:
in the first case it uses a different orientation from the expected one and
instead of interlocking performs an alternating circular movement - this
action accompanied by a non-manual feature suggesting intensity; in the
case of COGNITIVE PROCESSES the MACHINE morpheme is transferred to
the symbolic location of the head; LOCKED IN BATTLE makes use of the
symbolic I handshapes together with a twisting repetition, which once more COGNITIVE PROCESSES
carries aspectual meaning; DISCRIMINATION uses a separating action of
the right B hand from the left G hand, thus combining the PERSON classifier
and a positional metaphor of SEPARATION; finally in HEADLIGHTS MOV
ING, the two 5 hands expressing the EMIT metaphor perform a directional
movement which clearly represents the path and direction of the two
headlights and hence a vehicle.
All of the above examples are taken from BSL in use. They demonstrate
once again that a dictionary of frozen forms could never adequately represent
HEADLIGHTS MOVING
the morphological richness and lexical complexity of the language. Whether
it b e classifiers, metaphors, non-manual components, symbolic locations or
any other meaningful element, the signer in an unconscious rule-governed
way selects and chooses possible combinations in order to create or re-create
the required lexical items. Within this account it has not been possible to
state what kind of rules w e might be dealing with here: this is undoubtedly
the next stage in the analytical process which is required. Nevertheless, the
above examples should demonstrate the richness of the resources available
to the BSL user. In the final chapter, some of the continuing theoretical
issues will be examined in the light of the data presented so far.
chapter 6
productive morphology and
theoretical i s s u e s
. .the mental lexicon is not a fixed dictionary with a set amount of information
about each word, but an active system in which new links are perpetually being
formed. "
Jean Aitchison, 1987, pl62

172 16.01 the status of the morpheme


173 f 6.02 simultaneous compounds
175 116.03 simultaneous patterning
176 516.04 sequential combinations: compounds or
blends?
178 516.05 compound creation and historical changes
180 f 6.06 relationships between signs
181 f 6.07 frozen, established and produtive lexicon
181 516.08 attested forms
182 516.09 dictionaries and written sources
184 516.10 conclusion
The status of the morpheme 6.01 H
T h e concept of the morpheme as the minimal unit of meaning is central to the
account of word-formation presented here. Indeed it is central to most
accounts of morphology and morphological structure and has long been one
of the givens of linguistic theory. Although this area of morphology was
initially somewhat neglected by generative linguists, it has recently been
given renewed attention by linguists from differing theoretical standpoints.
Inevitably, this has led once more to a questioning of the notion of the
morpheme itself.
The most relevant account for our purposes is the fairly radical theory
proposed and developed by Mark Aronoff in his 1976 monograph W o r d
F o r m a t i o n in G e n e r a t i v e G r a m m a r . In a section appropriately entitled
"Trouble with Morphemes", Aronoff argues that while the theory of the
morpheme as a 'minimally meaningful element' is misguided, it is neverthe
less possible to construct a theory in which the morpheme plays a central
role. T h e apparent contradiction of these two claims is resolved by the
suggestion that the morpheme can be defined other than semantically. It is
important to interject here that Aronoff is primarily involved in developing
a theory of word-formation within generative grammar. While the specific
details of his theory are well outside the scope of this account, his discussion
of some of the difficulties associated with morpheme theory has direct
bearing on the analysis of BSL compounds.
The central group of examples which Aronoff presents in his attempt to
destroy the morpheme have, in fact, always caused difficulty for morpheme
theory. Ke refers firstly to what are sometimes known as 'cranberry morphs'.
The paradigm example of "cranberry" demonstrates the peculiarity of as
signing compound status to this word on the analogy of "strawberry",
"blueberry", "blackberry" and "gooseberry". The problem is that it is impos
sible to find other contexts in which cran operates as a f r e e morpheme.
However, the problem is wider than this one word. At first sight, it seems
quite legitimate to speak of "straw", "blue", "black" and "goose" as f r e e mor
phemes. However, we would be hard pressed to show the meaning-relation-
ship between the "goose" of "gooseberries" and the "goose" that flies through
the air or the "straw" of "strawberries" and the grain which is fed to animals.
Furthermore, it is well-known that "blackboards" (and even blackbirds) are
not necessarily black any more than "blueberries" are necessarily blue, so
there seems to b e something very odd about assigning a meaning to a specific
morpheme, but then arguing that that meaning does not apply in another
context.
There is little doubt that Aronoff has focused on a genuine problem here,
although given that it is virtually always possible to find exceptions and
a w k w a r d c a s e s , i t s e e m s r a t h e r premature t o g e t rid of the m o r p h e m e o n the
b a s i s o f this t y p e of e x a m p l e a l o n e . In a n y case, s h i f t s of m e a n i n g , c h a n g e s
of m e a n i n g a n d e v e n reversals of meaning a r e fairly pervasive p h e n o m e n a in
l a n g u a g e . T h e "black" of a "black e y e " , "black Friday", "black and white
solutions", "Black R o d " , "black market", "black mass", a "black hole",

"black ice" a n d "blackmail" certainly varies in meaning f r o m item t o item. In


s o m e c a s e s , it is d i f f i c u l t t o g i v e a precise o r separate m e a n i n g t o t h e word
"black" a s o p p o s e d t o t h e lexical item in which it occurs. Nevertheless,
intuitively w e f r e q u e n t l y recognise s o m e relationship. W h i l e lexical and
semantic theory d o e s n o t a l w a y s m a n a g e t o capture the n a t u r e of such
relationships, i t w o u l d surely b e counter-intuitive t o treat "black" in all of t h e
a b o v e c a s e s a s totally unrelated i t e m s .
Interestingly e n o u g h , t h e o n e detailed application of A r o n o f f s theory t o
a sign l a n g u a g e , i e , C h i n c h o r ' s d e v e l o p m e n t of a word-formation theory with
special r e f e r e n c e t o numeral incorporation in A S L (Chinchor, 1981), specifi
c a l l y r e j e c t s A r n o n o f f s dismissal of t h e m o r p h e m e . H o w e v e r , A r o n o f f s
a c c o u n t d o e s a l e r t u s t o t h e d i f f i c u l t i e s inherent in descriptions of word-
f or m ation p r o c e s s e s a n d , particularly, in t h e specification of separate, f r e e
morphemes.

1 6.02 Simultaneous compounds


T h e d i f f i c u l t y o f separating o u t f r e e m o r p h e m e s m a y seem particularly acute
in t h e c a s e of simultaneous c o m p o u n d s , especially a s these have traditionally
been treated in t h e sign language literature a s simple signs. I k n o w of only
o n e o t h e r p ro posal suggesting that sign languages m a k e use of simultane
o u s c o m p o u n d s . In a short article o n numeral incorporation, C hi nc hor
suggests t h a t incorporation m a y b e s t b e considered a s simultaneous c o m
p o u n d i n g ( C h i n c h o r , 1980, p p 4 0 - 4 1 ) . Chinchor arrives at a notion of simul
taneous c o m p o u n d i n g through explicit rejection of the notion of f r e e f o r m s
v e r s u s b o u n d m o r p h e m e s . S h e argues that the operational definition of a f r e e
v e r s u s a b o u n d m o r p h e m e i s n o t a l w a y s e a s y t o satisfy and this brings into
question t h e b a s i s of traditional d e f i n i t i o n s of c o m p o u n d s . Anderson(1988)

h o w e v e r , s e e m s t o i m p l y t h a t t h e distinction itself is n o t all that important:

"Both (compounding and derivation) involve the combining of morphemes;


but the elements combined in a compound happen to enjoy independent
status while, at most, one of the elements combined in derivation is autono
mous; this, however, seems more of a convenient division in terminology
than an essential difference of type."
Anderson, 1988, pl87
Within B S L the component morphemes of simultaneous compounds are
freely occurring in the language, even though their forms may be modified
when they are used as elements within compounds. If we look a little more
closely at these compounds, we see that in many cases there is no problem in
designating both component morphemes a s freely occurring in the language;
in other cases, the picture is rather more fuzzy. We are really concerned here
with two kinds of questions: do these morphemes occur a s separate lexical
items in other contexts and do the meanings they have in these other contexts
bear any relationship to the meanings within the compound?
T h e suggestion that classifier forms do not occur independently seems to
ignore their use within locative structures within the language. In such
structures, the non-dominant hand typically articulates one classifier mor
pheme while the dominant hand produces another. This occurs in such
examples as:
PERSON BEHIND DESK BMCia,'
PLACED GLASS ON TABLE B a x , C < A < V , <

In both these cases, the left hand is producing a completely separate word
which has to be accounted for within the syntax of the language. Thus if we
alter the number of persons in the first example or the number of glasses in
the second, this will in no way affect the production of the left hand classifier
forms. T h e focus in the recent sign language literature on the role of
classifiers within verb forms seems to have obscured their role both within
noun forms, such a s classifier compounds, and within sign phrases and
clauses.
The further question concerns whether, semantically, we are dealing with
the same morpheme or not. The difficulty here is that classifier morphemes,
like metaphor morphemes, could be said to have generalised meanings. T h e
B-SASS classifier has the generalised meaning 'item with flat surface', but
it can b e used for a range of specific referents. Thus it may refer to a bed, a
piece of paper, the ground, a table and so on. It could b e said that classifiers
have generalised meanings but specific referents. Similarly, the metaphor
EMIT has the type of generalised meaning provided in chapter four, but it can
refer specifically to the emission of liquid, smoke, heat rays etc. There is no
doubt that both within the syntax and the lexis, signers are able to re-interpret
the item anew within each context. In a way this is no different from being
able to re-interpret the examples of "black" in the English examples pre
sented above.

One other possible objection to the preceding analysis is that elements


such a s the B hand of the flat surface classifier occurs in other lexical items
without any meaning whatsoever. The flat hand B acts a s the left hand base
in the manual tab signs DIFFICULT B>x , T>J. * ' and WRONG
B a > I <-L * * In these contexts, i t clearly h a s n o separate m e a n i n g . Again
this i s n o t a g e n u i n e d i f f i c u l t y . If w e look a t the f o l l o w i n g English e xa mpl e s :
"detoxicate" "deliberate"
"deregulate" "depart"
"denationalise" "demonstrate"
"deforest" "delay"
w e c a n r e c o g n i s e that in t h e i t e m s o n t h e l e f t hand list the f i r s t syllable
'de-' i s actually a lexical p r e f i x meaning 'to reverse'. Although t h e items on
t h e r i g h t h a n d list a l s o h a v e t h e s a m e initial syllable, it does n o t f u n c t i o n a s
a p r e f i x . "Deliberate" d o e s n o t m e a n 'to reverse t h e process of liberating
people'. T h u s in E n g l i s h , w e h a v e t o c o p e with identical f o r m s having
d i f f e r e n t f u n c t i o n s within w o r d s . T h e situation is similar in B S L . In o n e
instance, t h e G hand m a y carry the m e a n i n g of 'person'; in another it is
simply an arbitrary fo rmational element. Such a situation provides n o
particular p r o b l e m f o r the native user.

Finally, i t i s worth noting that w h i l e other researchers have n o t analysed


w h a t I a m calling simultaneous c o m p o u n d s in precisely the sa me w a y , they
h a v e d r a w n attention t o the semantic f u n c t i o n i n g of classifier f o r m s within
such w o r d s . C o k e l y a n d B a k e r p o i n t out that in A S L :

"...using the non-dominant 1-Cl to represent a 'person' is seen in many


conventional signs, such as those often glossed as MEET, HIT, SLAP, NAG,
FLATTER,POPULAR, GANG-UP-ON, CONVINCE, (olderform) and GRAB.
Similarly, the V-Cl and its variant V:-Cl are often used to represent the 'legs'
of a person - seen in signs like STAND, DIVE, F ALL...ROLL-ON-FLOOR-
WITH-LAUGHTER, RESTLESS and KNEEL."

Cokely and Baker, 1980, p321

Certainly in B S L , t h e u s e of c l a s s i f i e r s within simultaneous c o m p o u n d s


p r o v i d e s a m e a n s of extending t h e vocabulary which is unknown in spoken
languages.

U 6.03 S i m u l t a n e o u s patterning
A s I h a v e n o t e d e l s e w h e r e (Brennan,1986), o n e of the k e y theoretical issues
within sign linguistics i s t h e e x t e n t t o which t h e modality of sign language
a f f e c t s i t s structure. O n e sub-topic of particular significance here i s the
e x t e n t t o w h i c h sign languages exploit simultaneous rather than sequential
patterning . T h e a b o v e description of c o m p o u n d s in B S L suggests that sign
l a n g u a g e m a y well exploit both f o r m s of organisation.
T h e r e is little d o u b t that B S L m a k e s extensive use of sequential c o m
p o u n d i n g . T h e r e a r e r e g u l a r processes which allow t h e smooth c o m b i n i n g of
t w o separate w o r d s of t h e language into a n e w lexical item. H o w e v e r , it a l s o
u s e s simultaneous patterning in a m a n n e r and to an e x t e n t that would b e
impossible in spoken languages. Levelt h a s c o m m e n t e d o n t h e limitations of
spoken languages in this respect:

"... it is clear that parallelness of a more extended sort surpasses the abilities
of both the articulatory and auditory apparatus. It is impossible to articu
late two words or larger units at the same time, since they involve the same
musculature. Moreover, people have great difficulty in identifying two
simultaneously sounding words or larger messages."
Levelt, 1980, p l 4 2

O n t h e other hand, there a r e s o m e languages in t h e world which d o require


t h e speaker t o produce t w o m o r p h e m e s simultaneously. In certain tonal lan
guages, it is possible f o r morphological distinctions such a s 'near past' a n d
'perfect' t o b e carried b y t o n e alone (see Mathews, 1974, p i 13). In such
w o r d s , there a r e t w o e l e m e n t s of i nforma t i on, o n e segmental and o n e supra
segmental. H o w e v e r , it is obvious that t h e supra-segmental e l e m e n t c a n n o t
occur alone; it cannot b e a minimal f r e e f o r m . T h u s even if w e could imagine
a language where the tonal information corresponded t o the classifier ele
m e n t s of B S L simultaneous c o m p o u n d s , such a language would still not b e
able t o m a k e u s e of simultaneous c o m p o u n d i n g . Sign l a n g u a g e s alone h a v e
the potential t o combine t w o f r e e f o r m s simultaneously to p r o d u c e a new
lexical item. T h i s then is a m a j o r d i f f e r e n c e between spoken and signed
languages a n d , in particular, between B S L and E n g l i s h .

Sequential combinations: c o m p o u n d s o r blends? 6 . 0 4 11


Humpty Dumpty in L e w i s Carroll's Alice t h r o u g h t h e L o o k i n g G l a s s r e c
ognised a particular pattern of English word-formation w h e n h e r e m a r k e d :

"You see it's like a portmanteau - there are two meanings packed into one
word. "
Carrol (1872), 1971 edition, pp221-3

Linguists u s e either H u m p t y Dumpty's term 'portmanteau' o r t h e term 'blends'


"to r e f e r t o such items as:
"guestimate" ("guess" + "estimate")
"participation" ("participate" + "action")
"escalift" ("escalator" + "lift")
"sexploitation" ("sex" + "exploitation")
"telethon" ("television" + "marathon")
T h e s e f o r m s a r e l i k e c o m p o u n d s in that they involve the combining of t w o
f r e e f o r m s . H o w e v e r , t h e d i f f e r e n c e is that at least o n e of t h e words c o n
c e r n e d o c c u r s in a r e d u c e d f o r m . A d a m s (1973) h a s noted that there is n o
s i n g l e t y p e of b l e n d . W h a t s h e t e r m s t h e 'splinter' may b e c u t o f f f r o m the
s o u r c e w o r d a t m o r p h e m e b o u n d a r y , syllable boundary o r in t h e mi ddl e of
such units: t h e r e i s n o consistency of patterning.
Liddell (1984a) h a s suggested that s o m e A S L sign combinations share the
properties o f b oth c o m p o u n d s a n d portmanteaus. H i s account is based upon
h i s analysis of t h e c o m p o n e n t signs of c o m p o u n d s into sequential units.
Thus the A S L compound:
THINK MARRY BELIEVE
i s derived f r o m t w o distinct A S L signs. According to Liddell's analysis, the
sign T H I N K i s composed of t w o segments: an approach m o v e m e n t to the
h e a d (AP) a n d a h o l d (H); t h e sign M A R R Y is composed of three segments:
a hold then a n approach m o v e m e n t of the dominant h a n d towards t h e base
hand a n d then a hold a g a i n . In the compound f o r m , t h e initial approach
m o v e m e n t is eliminated f r o m T H I N K and t h e initial hold is eliminated f r o m
M A R R Y . T h e c o m p o u n d f o r m thus consists of three segments rather than
five.

THINK MARRY BELIEVE


AP-H H-AP-H H-AP-H
Liddell a l s o n o t e s that the orientation o f t h e first segment is influenced b y t h e
orientation of t h e f o l l o w i n g s e g m e n t s (Liddell, 1984a, p388). He a rgue s that
such an account a l l o w s t h e p r o c e s s of compounding t o be described in
structural, r a t h e r than physical terms. T h e f a c t that M A R R Y a p p e a r s in an
a l m o s t identical f o r m in t h e s i m p l e sign M A R R Y and the combined form
B E L I E V E suggests that w e a r e dealing with a compound form. However, t h e
f a c t that T H I N K a p p e a r s in a r e d u c e d f o r m in B E L I E V E m a k e s this m o r e like
a blen d i n E n g l i s h . Certainly m a n y of t h e c o m p o u n d s mentioned a b o v e in
relation to B S L i n v o l v e the c o m b i n i n g of reduced f o r m s , whether w e a na l ys e
t h e s e i n t e r m s o f sequential segments o r simultaneous parameters. O n e way
of solving t h i s d i l e m m a i s to g r o u p all combinations of f r e e f o r m s a s
c o m p o u n d s , recognising that t h e d e g r e e of modification in t h e f o r m of
c o m p o n e n t signs m a y v a r y considerably f r o m sign to sign. T h i s solution is
c o m p a r a b l e t o that a d o p t e d b y Quirk e t al (1985) f o r English: while these
authors d o r e c o g n i s e a separate category of blending, they nevertheless
speak of these b l e n d s a s c o m p o u n d f o r m s (Quirk e t a l , 1985pp 1583-4).

Quirk e t al c o m m e n t that t h e b l e n d e d f o r m s preserve:

"...the normal attributes of the compound such that the end-part is the
thematic base to which the new initial part is related, the blend tends to have
as a whole the prosodie shape of the untruncated end-part..."
Quirk et al, 1985, pl583

In B S L c o m p o u n d s , it d o e s tend to b e t h e c a s e that the second sign is the least


r e d u c e d . I t is sometimes, though not a l w a ys , possible t o r e c o g n i s e t h e kind
of thematic structure mentioned by Quirk et al. J u s t a s 'motel' i s a kind of
hotel, T H I N K A D D - E X A G G E R A T E could b e regarded a s a kind of (meta
phorical?) adding and S A Y T W I S T - D I S T O R T a s a kind of (metaphorical?)
twisting. H o w e v e r , because of t h e metaphorical nature of m a n y sequential
c o m p o u n d s it can b e q u i t e d i f f i c u l t t o think in t e r m s of t h e f i n a l c o m p o n e n t
a s bearing t h e thematic m e a n i n g . T h e situation i s even m o r e c o m p l e x in si
multaneous c o m p o u n d s in that w e cannot speak of t h e second sign in terms
of sequence. H o w e v e r , there is s o m e comparison between t h e second signs
of sequential c o m p o u n d s and t h e sign articulated b y t h e active hand in simul
taneous c o m p o u n d s . T h u s in:
1
GROUND ROCKET bx x g<A
THIN THING
R O C K E T is a type of thin thing rather than a t y p e of g r o u n d . Similarly in:
X
WATER SUBMARINE j.-o> v<A

SOLID OBJECT
S U B M A R I N E is a type of solid o b j e c t , rather than a type of water. Of course,
a s with sequential c o m p o u n d s in both English and B S L , there are exceptions
t o t h i s kind of patterning.

C o m p o u n d creation & historical c h a n g e 6.05 1


A n u m b e r of sign language researchers have noted a tendency f o r complex
s i g n s to change o v e r time s o that they b e c o m e simple s i g n s of the language.
C o m p l e x signs a r e normally seen a s combinations of t w o separate signs.
K y l e a n d W o l l h a v e posited a formal constraint t o that e f f e c t :

" ... signs with two of any element are more complex than signs with one, and
two is the upper limit of complexity."
Kyle and Woll, 1985, pi 18

I t s h o u l d b e clear f r o m our earlier discussion that at least o n e category of


c o m p o u n d signs does not comply with this restriction, although K y l e and
W o l l a r e n o t explicit a s t o t h e precise status of these elements. Sequential-
simultaneous classifiers a r e m a d e up of three identifiably separate mor
p h e m e s . T h e f a c t that t h e language c a n , a s it were, tolerate such internal
complexity a t t h e word level seems to b e linked with t h e f a c t that t w o kinds
of patterning a r e involved - simultaneous and sequential. Of course, this
g r o u p i s an e x t r e m e c a s e a n d w e h a v e already seen that c o m p o u n d s of this
t y p e constitute a f a i r l y small category. Of c o u r s e , in respect of t h e kind of
assembling p r o c e s s involved i n c o m p l e t e (mix 'n' match) signs, n o such
constraint applies.
F r o m t h e discussions a b o v e , i t w o u l d seem that c o m p o u n d s a r e a fairly
robust class of lexical items in t h e language. Certainly w e a r e a b l e t o n o t e
relatively n e w c o m p o u n d s i g n s entering t h e language and becomi ng estab
lished. Y e t such productivity h a s t o b e balanced against w h a t Martinet
( 1960 ) h a s c a l l e d t h e "minimal e f f o r t principle". W h i l e w e constantly need
t o e n s u r e t h a t w e a r e a b l e t o f u l f i l our communicative needs, w e a r e also
constantly seeking w a y s of r e d u c i n g t h e d e m a n d s m a d e upon u s . Yau (1986)

f o u n d that signers, living within a hearing community and completely


isolated f r o m sign language m o d e l s , tended t o create their own signs. In
many cases, Yau was able to note:

"... a sign creation process of how a compound or monogestural sign was


obtained through the reduction of its original multi-element sequence."
Yau, 1986, p76

T h u s t h e ad ult d e a f signers h e studied o f t e n mimed the appearance, us a ge and


location of n e w o b j e c t s , then gradually reduced the complexity of these
f o r m s . In f a c t , exactly this t y p e of evolution of sign f o r m s can b e noted in
B S L . O n e s p e c i f i c e x a m p l e m a y help t o c l a r i f y this. In a j o k e involving a
m e c h a n i c a l c a r wash t h e signer f i r s t u s e d w h a t w e might think of a s a direct
literal b o r r o w i n g f r o m English:
CAR WASH 0 A T > A T < " 'JJ A a > A^OJL*

H o w e v e r , t h e sig ner then proceeded t o g i v e a descriptive elaboration of a


vehicle going through a c a r w a s h . T h i s description involved t h e following
sign f o r m s :
VERTICAL ROLLERS 0 G TA G TA ?
DRIVE 0 ATA ATA X '
LARGE BRUSHES (ON SCREEN) 0 5TA 5 T A "
H O R I Z O N T A L B R U S H E S ( M O V I N G O V E R C A R ) C v> Cx>< ( ?
DRIVE (OVER A BUMP) 0 A T AA T A ( ; , )

T h e sig ner then m a d e r e f e r e n c e t o the machine again, but on this occasion


D
simply used t h e classifier-based f o r m 0 5TA 5TA v to refe r not simply
t o t h e b r u s h e s b u t t o t h e w h o l e m a c h i n e . It is almost a s if in such contexts w e
s e e t h e signer w o r k towards t h e creation of a n e w sign and making a selection
f r o m w h a t i s available.
In h e r a c c o u n t of historical c h a n g e in A S L , Frishberg (1975) not e s the
tenden cy f o r c o m p o u n d f o r m s to b e simplified. It is a s if signers created
these f o r m s b e c a u s e they were required, b u t a s soon a s they w e r e u s e d ,
m o d i f i c a t i o n s began t o b e introduced. Frishberg d e m o n s t r a t e s that o f t e n ,
through processes of assimilation and f l u i d i t y , the t w o original s i g n s a r e
b l e n d e d together s o that they look like a single sign. T h e A S L sign I N F O R M
w a s historically m a d e u p of t w o signs, K N O W (one-handed) a n d B R I N G
(two-handed). Frishberg points out that:

" ... the two parts have now become blended into a single opening motion of
the hands: one hand at the forehead and the other in neutral space, both
opening into the same final configuration as the sign BRING, but no longer
transparently related to it."

Frishberg, 1975, p707

Similar e x a m p l e s have been noted by Wallin f o r SSL. In B S L , it is possible


t o n o t e similar c h a n g e s o v e r time. T h e sign T E A C H was originally m a d e u p
of t w o distinct elements. T h e first could b e glossed a s something like
E X T R A C T in that it involved the t w o hands, p a l m s f a c i n g the signer,
m o v i n g a w a y f r o m the head and closing t o t w o B h a n d s . T h e hands then
twisted r o u n d a n d moved away f r o m the b o d y in a repeated m o v e m e n t . T h i s
n
form: b TA b-LA b_LAx is still s o m e t i m e s used in
f o r m a l situations. H o w e v e r , more frequently T E A C H is articulated b y
simply using t h e second sign. In s o m e versions, w h a t Wallin (1983, p 6 8 )
calls a 'trace' element remains: the h a n d s begin with palms facing the
f o r e h e a d and twist outwards, although there is n o closing action involved.
Similarly, at least s o m e of the e x a m p l e s given in previous p a g e s may b e
articulated in informal contexts either without the f i r s t e l e m e n t o r with onl y
a trace.

Relationship between Signs 6.06 1


A s suggested in chapter o n e , part of the task of morphology is t o tell u s w h a t
sort of new words a speaker/signer can f o r m . In o r d e r to d o this, it is

necessary t o e x a m i n e t h e relationships which hold b e t w e e n existing signs

within t h e lexicon. Is it possible t o f i n d c o m m o n elements? I s it pos s i bl e to


f i n d categories or g r o u p s of signs which share c o m m o n features? If s o , then
w e m a y predict that these elements are likely to b e used in the creation of new
words. Of course, certain kinds of processes a r e needed t o allow those

e l e m e n t s to enter into t h e formation of new w ords . Within this account, I


h a v e suggested that a s well a s what w e might think of a s t h e 'unmotivated'
m o r p h e m e s within the lexicon, there a r e t w o m a j o r categories of m o r p h e m e ,
which play a m a j o r r o l e in t h e formation of new signs. T h e s e a r e the

categories of classifiers and metaphors. T h e claim inherent throughout the


account i s that the 'motivated' relationship between classifiers and referents
and between metaphors and meanings has a triggering effect on the produc
tion of new signs. Of course, in order to allow the generation of new signs,
certain kinds of morphological processes must still occur. However, within
BSL these processes themselves exploit the motivation inherent in the
language. Thus both compounds and complex signs make use of classifiers
and metaphors. Moreover, because of the potential within the language for
simultaneous production, such forms can co-occur within simultaneous com
pounds, as well a s in ways which are more familiar, i.e. sequentially.

I 6.07 Frozen, established and productive lexicon


On a number of occasions throughout this account I have made reference to
a contrast between frozen and productive morphology. This notion has been
expressed b y a number of sign linguists including Supalla, McDonald,
Wilbur and others. T h e term frozen seems to be used in slightly different
ways by different authors. For some ' f r o z e n ' is akin to what I have termed
the 'established* lexicon. Within this account, the established lexicon con
sists of those items which occur s o frequently in the language that we can list
them in dictionaries (although see further below in respect of the difficulties
involved in attesting forms). However, as mentioned in chapter five , some
authors (eg Wilbur) regard frozen forms a s single morpheme signs, ie units
that cannot b e further analysable into component parts. These contrast with
productive signs which are made up of several individual meaningful com
ponents which can b e re-assembled in different ways to produce other signs.
Many of the difficulties here relate to deciding what should b e called 'new*
signs. Should w e regard a sign which is assembled from established compo
nents combined in predictable ways a s new? It may be new within the usage
of the user or addressee on any given occasion, but it is by no means the case
that it is necessarily new in the language. Thus it may be appropriate to think
of the established lexicon as consisting of two sets of resources: frozen
forms which are stable and unchanging, even though they may once have
been put together from meaningful combinations; and individual meaningful
components which can b e p u t together in particular kinds of combination.
One part of the lexicon will always b e productive and changeable; other parts
may become frozen over time. T h e lexicon will always and inevitably be in
a state of flux.

U 6.08 Attested forms


Within this account, I have been meticulous in giving examples of 'attested'
forms. In almost every case, these have been signs which I have actually
observed in 'live' usage or extracted from video recordings of live usage. In
a small n u m b e r of cases, I have predicted 'possible' u s a g e o n t h e b a s i s of
'attested' usage.
H o w e v e r , there is p e r h a p s a danger in such strong r e l i a n c e o n actual,
attested usage. T h e main problem is that this may a p p e a r t o deny the
importance of 'potential' w o r d s in the language a n d , along with this, the
importance of 'constructed' examples. A s Bauer (1988) p o i n t s out:

"Syntacticians discuss sentences which are possible, but not necessarily


occurrent. Only in rare cases do they limit themselves to actually attested
sentences... why should not possible but non-occurrent words be perfectly
acceptable objects of study in morphology? We know that just as it is
possible to create new sentences, it is possible to create new words. We thus
know that not all the potential words of any language can be attested, just as
we know that not all the potential sentences of any language can be attested."
Bauer, 1988, pp. 63-64

W h i l e it does m a k e s e n s e to provide e x a m p l e s f r o m k n o w n usage, o u r


morphology must also have s o m e predictive power. Otherwise, how is it
possible t o explain how the native speaker/signer is s o readily a b l e t o
understand words/signs that are used apparently f o r the first time? Even a
regular reading of daily newspapers will provi de e x a m p l e s of English words
never seen b e f o r e , which w e typically understand q u i t e r e a d i l y . Presumably
w e a r e able t o d o s o in part b e c a u s e w e h a v e some internal a w a re ne s s of t h e
types of morphological elements and processes that can o p e r a t e within the
language.

Dictionaries and written sources 6.09 H


B a u e r a l s o points out that even for languages such a s English there may b e
d i f f i c u l t i e s in deciding whe t he r or not a w o r d 'exists'. E v i d e n c e is typically
d r a w n f r o m written sources, particularly word-listings such a s established
dictionaries, e . g . 'The Oxford English Dictionary' (O.E.D.) Y e t even in its
m o s t recent f o r m and with the increasing support of n e w technology, it is
a l m o s t impossible for t h e O.E.D., o r any other dictionary t o b e both fully up-
to-date and f u l l y comprehensive. A publication such a s t h e 'Longman's
R e g i s t e r of N e w Words' ( L o n g m a n , 1989) attempts to provi de a reasonably
up-to-date account of current usage. T h e r e is also an increasing attempt t o
include spoken a s well a s written English sources. H o w e v e r , this is a
relatively new development and it is unlikely that ordinary, everyday c o n
versations a r e given priority (as opposed to items f r o m t h e broadcast media
etc.). F o r B S L , of course, there is n o established written source. B S L itself
d o e s n o t have a written form and the first B S L dictionary, w h i l e in t h e last
stages of preparation, is not yet in print. W e cannot then simply turn to a
dictionary to check if a word 'exists'.
T h e best w e can d o is make our own observations. Yet even when using a
fairly wide corpus and a wide range of situations, there is every likelihood
that an individual will miss many new occurrences, and at the same time
perhaps give prominence to rare or 'nonce' usage. Such imbalance may even
occur in accounts of English words. Thus Bauer notes that the O.E.D.
includes the word 'greenth', even though it never seems to have been in
frequent use. Indeed Bauer suggests that the word is listed mainly because it
occurs in the work of George Eliot. (See Bauer, 1988, p p 63-65)
Nevertheless, it could b e argued that within societies which use English,
there are mechanisms for 'institutionalising' new words: these mechanisms
are still primarily written, although certain spoken language varieties now do
have a similar role. Thus television and radio d o help to establish usage.
Within the Deaf community, usage which is, as it were, available to the
whole community, or to relatively large or influential groups, will encourage
the institutionalising of forms. Thus the regular T.V. programme See H e a r
probably plays a major role here, since it is transmitted weekly for six
months of the year. Of course, viewers may complain about usage, as indeed
they do in respect of English. Nevertheless, use by the presenters of new
signs is likely to make them ultimately more acceptable. Other T.V. pro
grammes, such a s Listening Eye, provide opportunities for discussion of a
range of other controversial topics: this can encourage usage of vocabulary
which might otherwise be more narrowly restricted. Certainly relatively new
signs including DISABILITY B - o x \ B t < ' GAY BA> X A<x , CULTURE
z
b a > AXA * " and FEMINIST 0 J AIA ' have all been used on T.V. pro
grammes and their frequency of usage in the wider community seems to have
increased (see below). Certain other kinds of cultural events may also play
a role, e.g. meetings of Deaf organisations, e.g. the British Deaf Association,
and particularly events such as the annual 'Delegates Meetings' and the
triennial congresses. Newly established courses in sign language studies,
which bring together Deaf people from different areas, may also have an
institutionalising role, especially as participants often subsequently take on
a leadership role within their own communities. Certainly, it has been
possible to see almost direct links between usage within specific research
projects and courses and more general usage in relation to the topic of BSL
itself. Signs which are now commonly used, e.g . by Deaf teachers of BSL,

include:
ICONIC u v-ox 7
[<1
MORPHEME GT> S a x t "
CLASSIFIER 0 V<x ' '
ROLE-SHIFT [] >A <A S ~'

Conclusion 6.10 f
In r e c e n t years, there h a s been increased f o c u s o n t h e notion of 'natural
morphology'. It has been suggested that there is a s c a l e of naturalness within
morphology whereby w h a t is most iconic is m o s t natural; w h i l e w h a t i s least
iconic i s least natural (Bauer, 1988, p 189). A s Bauer p o i n t s out:

"The prediction is that if any language only uses one technique (within
morphology) it will be the most iconic one and that the most iconic one will
be the most common kind in any language, independent of whether it also
uses other kinds (Dressier, 1982: 74)"

Bauer, 1988,p 189

It is interesting t o n o t e that this increasing interest in naturalness within


mainstream linguistics c o m e s at a t i me w h e n , within sign linguistics, there
is s o m e hesitancy about giving t o o much weight t o c l a i m s about t h e high
d e g r e e of iconicity built into sign language systems. T h e claim inherent
within this account of B S L morphology is that 'iconic' e l e m e n t s (viewed in
t h e wider sense explained in chapter two), provide a triggering role within
t h e language. T o try to explain productive morphol ogy in B S L without
r e f e r e n c e t o notions such a s 'metaphor' and 'classifier' would run directly
counter t o the intuitions of native signers. Moreover, j u s t a s adherents of
natural morphology suggest that it can give some kind of explanatory basis
t o morphological universals, so recognising t h e pervasive r o l e of metaphors
a n d c l a s s i f i e r s in sign language morphologies may allow us t o a rri ve a t m o r e
accurate predictions concerning sign language universals.
I would suggest that t h e e f f e c t i v e communication which can occur b e
tween adult signers w h o d o not share the s a m e language can in p a r t b e
explained b y r e f e r e n c e t o shared encoding of visual-spatial relationships a n d
t h e exploitation of these within metaphor-based constructions. It is f o r f u t u r e
research t o elaborate upon this proposal.
appendix
transcription s y s t e m of BSL

188 f a.01 summary of handshapes


189 H a.02 summary of symbols
190 f a.03 terms
190 ! a.04 formulae
190 f a . 0 5 notes
190 f a . 0 6 hand arrangement
191 U a.07 contact
191 f a.08 circular movement
summary of handshapes1 a.Ol K

diacritics'
tells us that the thumb is prominent
interpreted as ' t h u m b and finger(s) are touch
i n g ' . In all cases except in A the contact is
between thumb tip and fingertip(s).
interpreted as ' t h u m b and index f inge r are
parallel', i e the thumb is extended but held par
allel, rather than at right angles, t o the index
finger. T h e gap between finger and thumb may
vary.
interpreted a s 'bending at the knuckles',
interpreted as 'bending of the f i n g e r s ' .
t a.02 summary o f symbols

tab palm ori sig


0 neutral space a up A UP

0 whole face down v down


^ top of head T towards N up and down
^ upper face _L away > right
II eye < right < left
U nose > left z side to side
U lower face / chin finger ori T towards
y under chin A up x away
c? mouth and lips v down i to and fro
3 cheek T towards & entering
3
ear x away x approach
T throat / neck > right + separate
[ ] chest < left >i interchange
upper trunk hand arrangement A/ alternate
U lower trunk , side by side r cross
\ upper arm - one hand above the x link / grasp
J lower arm other x contact
J elbow f one hand behind the circular
T> pronated wrist other (nearer the body) O
J twist

OL supinated wrist ! interlinking a palm up

W hip 0 one hand inside the o palm down


i upper leg other n nod / bend

! lower leg ^contacting each other nj waving

] left chest T crossed r> flexing

[ right chest SL wriggling


n crumbling
opening
n closing
0 no movement

repetition
o short
sharp
[ ] final handshape
Terms a.03
tab is the position of the hand(s).
dez is the handshape.
ori is the orientation of the palm, and the orientation of the fingers (ie,
direction in relation to the signer's body).
sig is the movement of the hand(s).
hand arrangement (ha) is the relationship of the hands to each other.

Formulae a.04 U
single dez signs (one-handed signs): tab-dez-ori-ori-sig, e g
NUMBER uAta *
double dez signs (both hands active): tab-dez-ori-ori-(ha)-dez-ori-ori-sig,
eg
x
DELAY 0F>x,f<x
manual tab signs (two handed signs in which the non-dominant hand acts as
the tab, ie the base upon which the dominant hand acts):
manual tab-ori-ori-(ha)-dez-ori-ori-sig, eg
TRIP h >a t x h < a *"

Notes a.05 f
In two-handed signs the non-dominant hand (normally the left) is always
shown first.
In two-handed signs if there is no separate tab symbol (eg 0 ) then the first
handshape label must be treated as a manual tab.
In manual tab signs the sig refers to the action of the dominant hand; in
double dez signs the sig refers to the action of both hands.
Palm orientation is always written before finger orientation.
The two rules for interpreting finger ori are: the direction of the finger takes
precedence over the thumb; in closed or bent handshapes, finger ori is the
direction of the fingers when straightened.
Sig symbols may be placed horizontally (showing the actions occur one
after the other), or vertically (showing the actions occur simultaneously).

Hand arrangement a.06 K


Hand arrangement symbols are normally shown centrally. The symbol ,
meaning 'behind' is shown after the hand which is behind. 'Behind' is here
interpreted as 'closer to the body'. In MORE the left hand is nearer to the
body, in FOLLOW the right hand is nearer to the body:
x
MORE Bt> , x Bt<
X
FOLLOW 0 C xix x GT>X T

A line above the first handshape symbol means that the left hand is below the
right (as in UMBRELLA); a line below the first handshape symbol means
that the l e f t hand i s above the right (as in FULL).
UMBRELLA x> x AT< *
a
FULL -o> Bx>x *

f a.07 Contact
Appropriate placing of symbols can show initial, final and double contact, e g
NAME ^Hta"2
HARD U C<a""
SOLDIER " B<A " " "
maintaining contact
Here the hand touches the body throughout the sign. This is shown by the
contact symbol being placed at the bottom o f the vertical sig column, eg
LIFE [ ] T< '
holding contact
Here one part o f the hand ( e g the thumb) retains contact while the rest of the
hand moves (usually twisting or nodding). This is shown by the contact
symbol being placed at the top o f the vertical sig column, e g
X

EARLY B>x x cD I *
brushing contact
Here the contact i s only temporary and i s preceded and followed by non-
contact. This i s shown by the contact symbol being placed in the middle the
vertical sig column, e g
V

NEVER AT> , BT< *

f a.08 Circular movement

There are three types o f circular movement. They are described below, each
followed by their clockwise and anti-clockwise movement transcriptions,
for one and both hands1. 1 We always need three symbols to show

horizontal circular. The top symbol is always the same:*

If w e actually drew the circle, it would be parallel with the floor, e g The other two symbols depend on the type of

WHERE 0 B-ox Bx>x * movement involved.

one-handed signs clockwise: >


one-handed signs anti-clockwise: *
two-handed signs clockwise:

two-handed signs anti-clockwise: * e g
r
ABOUT 0 5x)i

SWIM 0 Bx>x l x B\>x *

If t w o hands are going in the same direction it would be * or * depending
o n the direction.
vertical-parallel
If we actually drew the circle, it would be parallel with the body, eg
PLAY 0 B-ox BXJJ. V

one-handed signs clockwise: *


one-handed signs anti-clockwise: *
two-handed signs clockwise: *
two-handed signs anti-clockwise: * eg
SORRY [] BT> *
COMPUTER 0 CTII G -OX *

y
If two hands are going in the same direction it would be or depending on
the direction.
vertical-right angles
If we actually drew the circle, it would be atright angles to the body, eg

SIGN 0 5>x 5<x * N
v
one-handed signs clockwise:
one-handed signs anti-clockwise: *
two-handed signs clockwise: *
two-handed signs anti-clockwise: * eg
X

NEXT YEAR Cx> l x Gx< *


A
/
CYCLING 0 A'ox ,A"ox *
Both hands move simultaneously in the same direction, unless the alternat
N
ing symbol is placed after the sig column.
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Index of glosses
A. BEAR (THE BEAR SHOOK THE BARS O F CAMERA, 160
ABORTION 1, 149 T H E CAGE), 8 0 CAMPAIGN (TO CAMPAIGN), 160
ABORTION 2, 149 BED, 9 0 , 154 CAN, 2 5
ABOUT, 191 BEES (SWARMING), 7 0 CAN (OIL CAN), 83
ABUSE, 129 BEHIND BARS (THE BEAR FOUND HIM CANNON, 154
ACCUSE, 129 SELF BEHIND BARS), 80 CANNOT HEAR, 138
ACHIEVE, 105 BELIEVE, 122, 143, 146 CANNOT SEE, 138
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES, 31 BELIEVE (ASL; THINK+MARRY), 177 CAR (COMING TO ABRUPT HALT), 6 4
ADVANCE (IN ADVANCE OF), 116 BELOW, 17 CAR (TRAVELLING UPHILL), 64
AEROPLANE , 17, 62, 63, 9 3 BENCH, 90 CAR W A S H . 179
AGREE, 117, 118 BENEFITS, 162 CAR (WINDING ITS W A Y ALONG THE TWISTING
AIDS, 109 BIG HEAD, 86 ROAD), 6 4
AIM, 105 BIRD, 6 3 CARDBOARD, 90, 9 3
AIRPLANE (ASL), 6 2 BITE, 17 CARRIED, 164
ALTERNATION, 128 BLADE, 85 CARRY (TO CARRY A PILE O F FLAT-ISH OB
AMBIVALENT, 123, 124 BLAST EAR WITH NOISE, 100 JECTS), 64
ANALYSIS, 127 BLOCKS O F FLATS/BUILDINGS. 84 CATERPILLAR, 7 1
ANIMAL (SMALL ANIMAL), 85 BLOOD, 9 7 . 101 CATCH SIGHT O F 1, 104
ANIMAL (WITH EARS), 9 3 BLOOD FLOWING, 28 CATCH SIGHT O F 2 , 104
ANNEXE, 148 BLOSSOM, 132 CATCH SIGHT O F 3 , 104
ANNOUNCE, 121 BOAT, 59 CHALLENGE. 119
ANNOYED (VERY ANNOYED), 168 BODY, 86, 144 CHANGE (RADICAL CHANGE), 128
ANTI-CHRIST, 120 BOLL, 147 CHECK, 144
ANXIOUS, 168 BOLLNS (SSL), 147 CHEERED, 164
APPEAR O N T.V., 9 9 BOMB. 97. 100 CHEQUE, 59
APPROVE, 29 BOOK. 86 CHESTERFIELD, 13
AQUADIVER, 153, 154 BOOK (THIN BOOK). 89 CHIMNEY, 100
ARBITRARY, 130 BOOKS, 85 CHINESE SCRIPT, 162
ARGUE, 119 BOOKS (BIG PILE O F BOOKS), 85 CHINESE TEA CUP, 85
ARMED ROBBER, 145 BORDER (E.G. WALLPAPER), 86, 89. 91 CHOOSE , 130
ARREST, 105, 106 BOTTLE (VINEGAR BOTTLE), 83 CHOP (TO CHOP), 64
ASHTRAY, 154 BOWL, 85 CHRIST, 120
ASSESS, 126 BOWL (TO PASS A BOWL), 85 CHUNK, 86, 89. 91
ATTRACT, 127 BOX (LARGE BOX), 8 6 CIGARETTE, 88
AUBERGINE, 7 1 BRAIDS, 92 CLASSIFIER, 183
AUBERGINE (LARGE AUBERGINE), 87 BRANCHES, 86 CLAW, 9 2
AUDIENCE (SEATED I N CIRCULAR BRANDY, 61 CLAW HAMMER, 91
HALL), 69 BRICK, 59 CLAWS, 8 7 , 9 1 , 9 2
AUDIOTAPE, 89, 90, 91 BRING UP THE REAR, 116 CLEVER, 132
AUDITORY PERCEPTION, 109 BRUSH (NARROW BRUSH), 9 0 CLITORIS, 88
AUTOMATIC DOORS, 6 4 BRUSHES (HORIZONTAL BRUSHES COBBLER, 61
AXE, 85 MOVING OVER CAR), 179 COGNITIVE PROCESS(ES), 2 8 , 3 1 , 168, 169
BRUSHES (LARGE BRUSHES ON COIN, 87
B. SCREEN), 179 COINED, 168
BAD, 29 BUCK TEETH, 69 COLOGNE, 13
BADGE, 9 2 BUMP, 92 COLUMN, 84
BUOY, 99 COLUMN (WIDE COLUMN), 86
BADGER. 59 BUS (HUGE BUS), 84 COLUMNS, 153
BALL, 17, 85, 88 BUTT, 6 3 COMB, 5 8
BALL (SMALL BALL), 9 2 BUTTOCKS/BUM, 3 2 COMMUNICATE, 120
BARBER, 69, 153 BUTTON, 92 COMPARE, 126
BARN LEKA (CHILDPLAY, SSL), 146 COMPETITION, 119
BARTER, 121 c. COMPLETELY SLIPPED M Y M I N D , 149
BATTERY, 7 9 CAGE, 59, 87 COMPLICATED, 149
BEAK, 86. 89 CAGE (THE CAGE HUNG SUSPENDED A T COMPREHEND 1, 127
BEAK (CLOSED BEAK), 86, 90, 9 1 T H E T O P O F T H E TREE), 7 9 COMPREHEND 2, 143
BEAK (HOOKED BEAK), 8 9 CAGE (THE CAGE WAS LOWERED O N T O COMPUTER, 192
BEAK (DUCK'S BEAK), 9 1 T H E BEAR), 7 9 COMPUTER DISK, 61, 86
CONCENTRATE, 143, 144, 147 DISCHARGE, 97, 100 EXTRACT, 180
CONDOM, 3 2 DISCRIMINATION, 168, 169 EYE. 32
CONFLICT, 119 DISCUSS, 120 EYE-BROW. 89
CONFUSE, 142 DISGUISE. 142 EYES, 91, 92
CONFUSED 1 (THINK+MDf), 149 DISHWASHER. 98. 100 EYES (MY EYES WERE OUT O N STALKS),
CONFUSED 2 (THINK+MESH), 149 DISREGARD. 149 77
CONJURE U P , 132 DISTORT. 178 EYELASHES (BIG EYELASHES), 86
CONNIVE, 168 DIVE (ASL), 175
CONSTITUTION, 122 DIVED, 164 F.
CONTRADICT, 118 DIVORCE, 117 FACE (ASL), 142
CONTRADICTION, 114 DOMINATE, 132 FAIL, 29
CONTRAST, 118 DOMINOES, 84 FALL (ASL), 175
CONVERSE, 120, 121 DOOR, 14 FAMINE, 149
CONVINCE (ASL, OLDER FORM), 175 DOORBELL (FLASHING DOORBELL), 99 FELL, 164
COPY, 107 DORMITORY, 163 FELL FROM T H E S K Y , 167
COPY INTO A COMPUTER, 107 DOUBT(FUL) 1, 122 FELL WITH A THUD 1 (BIRD), 165
CORRECT, 2 9 DOUBT(FUL) 2 , 122 FELL WITH A T H U D 2 (PERSON). 165
CORRIDOR (NARROW CORRIDOR), 9 0 DOUBT(FUL) 3 , 122 FEMINIST, 183
COULD HAVE HAPPENED, 25 DRAWER, 14 FENCE 1, 27
COUNSEL, 159 DRESS, 145 FENCE 2, 27
CRAB, 87 DRIVE, 179 FENCE (TO FENCE). 27
CRACK, 89 DRIVE (OVER A BUMP). 179 FIGHT. 119
CRASH, 2 8 DROP, 106 FILE PAST (TO FILE PAST), 2 8
CREDITCARD, 91 DROWN, 110 FILE, 86
CRITICISE, 29 FILM (CINEMA FILM), 161
CRUSH, 131 E. FILM (TO FILM). 160. 161
CRY, 102 EAGLE, 59 FIND, 104, 105
CULTURE, 161, 183 EARLY, 191 FINDINGS (RESEARCH FINDINGS), 105
CURL, 89 EARPHONES, 61 FINGERS, 87
C U T (SHE C U T T H E MATERIAL), 69 EARRING, 87 FIRING (OF TURBO-JET RACING CARS),
CYCLE, 15 ECCENTRIC, 162 103
CYCLING, 192 EJACULATION, 98, 100 FLATTER, 67. 155, 156
ELASTIC, 89 FLATTER (ASL). 175
D. ELEPHANT, 17 FLOODLIGHTS. 99
DEBATE 1, 120 ELICIT, 127 FLOOD RISE . 47
DEBATE 2 , 120 EMIT, 9 8 FLOODS, 8 6
DEBATE 3, 120 EMPHASISE, 129 FLOW, 9 8
DECIDE, 122, 139, 141, 143 EMPLOY (SSL), 18 FLUTTER (SHE FLUTTERED HER EYE
DEFINITE, 121, 122 E N D O F LADLE (E.G. SOU P LADLE). 85 LASHES), 7 0
DEFINITION, 157 ENEMY. 119, 120 FLY, 17
DELAY, 190 ENOUGH. 145 FOLLOW, 190
DELIGHTE, 155 EPIDEMIC, 149 FOLLOW T W O PEOPLE. 67
DEPRESS, 32,132 EQUAL 114,115 FOOT/FEET, 85
DERANGED, 143 EVALUATE, 126 FOOTBALL. 87
DESK L I D (THICK), 86 EVIDENCE 1 (SEE+SHOW), 156 FOOTBALL PITCH, 9 3
DESTROY, 131 EVIDENCE 2(SEE+PAGE), 156 FORGOT, 149
DIAL (ROUND DIAL), 87 EXAGGERATE. 139, 143, 147. 178 FORK (IN ROAD), 117
DIAL (TO D I A L TELEPHONE NUMBERS), EXCAVATOR. 85 FOUL, 68
88 EXCHANGE, 126 FOX, 58
DIAMOND, 128 EXCLUDE, 117 FRISBEE, 86
DIDN'T HEAR I,T, 138 EXHAUST (CAR EXHAUST). 101 FULL, 191
DIDN'T SEE I T 138 EXHIBITION, 144. 147
DIFFERENT, 117, 118 EXIST, 2 5 G.
DIFFICULT, 174 EXPAND/ENLARGE, 114 GANG-UP-ON, 175
DIGITAL, 130 EXPERIENCE. 157 GARDEN FORK, 86
DIGITAL R E A D O U T , 130 EXPLAIN. 121 GET, 104, 106
DIGITAL DISPLAY, 130 EXPLAIN (I EXPLAIN T O YOU), 121 G E T AT, 129
DIGITAL W A T C H , 130 EXPLAIN (YOU EXPLAIN TO ME), 121 G E T RID OF, 106
DISABILITY, 183 EXPLORE, 127 G E T UP, 154
DISAGREE, 118 EXPLOSION, 100 GIRDER (SET GIRDER IN PLACE), 84
DISAPPEAR, 111 EXTENSION. 114 GIVE HELL TO, 67
GIVE UP, 106 HUGE. 113 LEAGUE, 119
GLANCE T O T H E LEFT, 7 7 HUGE (BODY) 1, 113 LEARN, 108, 109
GLASS. 8 4 HUGE (BODY) 2 , 113 LEGS. 88, 91
GLITTER. 128 HUGE (HEAD), 113 LEG(S) (BENT LEGS), 8 9 , 9 1
GLOBE, 87 HUGE (MAN), 113 LEGS (CROSSED LEGS), 165
GNAWING, 164 HYPERDERMIC NEEDLE. 89 LEGS DANGLING, 165
GOAL. 5 9 , 105 HYPNOSIS. 148 LEGS I N T H E AIR, 165
G O A L POSTS, 93 HYPOTHESIS, 2 8 LEGS/PAWS (E.G. O F CAT/DOG), 9 0
GOBBLEDYGOOK, 162 LEGS SWINGING T O A N D FRO, 166
G O M A D WITH/GIVE H E L L T O , 155 I. LEKA (PLAY. SSL), 145, 146
GOOD, 29. 144, 145 ICONIC. 183 LEKA S A N D (PLAYSAND, SSL), 146
GOOD ENOUGH (HARDLY A T ALL), 145 IDENTIFY. 144, 147 LENS, 84
GOODNIGHT, 147 IDIOSYNCRATIC, 162 LETTING THE IDEA FLOAT ABOUT IN
GOT UP, 166 IMAGINE, 132 ONE'S HEAD, 28
GRAB (ASL), 175 IN/INTERNAL, 3 2 LEVITATION, 154
GRAPH PAPER. 153 INCREASE. 121 LIAR, 143
GRASS, 27, 2 8 INCREMENT. 114 LIFE, 191
GRASS (TO GRASS), 27 INDICATE/EVIDENCE, 156 LIGHT(S), 97, 98, 99
GRINDING, 168 LIGHTER, 84
INFERIOR, 115
GROUND. 85, 154 LIGHTHOUSE. 99
INFLUENCE, 159
GUILLOTINE, 64, 85 LIGHT (ROOM LIGHT), 99
INFORM, 121
GUN, 89 LIGHTS (AIRPORT LANDING LIGHTS).
INFORM (ASL), 180
99
INSERT, 7 0
H. LIGHTS (AEROPLANE TAIL LIGHTS), 99
INSTEAD, 126
HAIR (HIS HAIR STOOD O N END), 7 0 LIGHTS (DISTANT LIGHTS). 99
INTEGRATE, 148
HAIR (CURLY HAIR), 89 LIGHTS (CAR WARNING SIDELIGHTS).
INTENSIVE, 149
HAMMOCKS. 163, 164 99
INTERACT, 120
HANDLES (LARGE HANDLES), 87 LINEN (FOLDED LINEN). 86
INTERNAL FEELINGS, 3 2
HANDLES (CUPBOARD HANDLES), 8 3 LINES, 86
IRRESOLUTE, 123, 124
HANDSOME, 147 LINES O F ODOUR. 28
HANGER, 89 ISOLATION. 117 LINES O F THOUGHT, 2 8
I WISH THE GROUND COULD HAVE
HANGING MOBILE, 6 3 SWALLOWED M E UP, 155 LIQUID, 86
HARD, 191 LIQUIDS BEING POURED, 2 8
HAVE, 104 J. LIST. 153. 154
HAVEN'T ARRIVED YET, 138 JARLID, 87 LITTLENESSS, 113
HAVEN'T S A I D I T YET, 138 JAVELIN, 84 LOCK, 17
HAVE SEX W I T H , 117 J E T (GAS JET). 101 LOCKED IN BATTLE, 168, 169
HEADACHE, 142 JEWELLERY (ITEMS O F JEWELLERY). LOG, 84, 88
HEADLIGHTS, 98, 99 88 LOGS (PILE U P LOGS), 84
HEADLIGHTS MOVING, 168, 169 JOIN A QUEUE, 6 6 LOGS (THE LOGS WERE S W E P T ALONG
HEADPHONES, 87 JOINER. 61 THE RIVER), 7 0
HEAD WITH HORNS, 9 3 JUDGE. 126 LONG THIN THINGS. 28
HEALTH, 143 JUMPED DOWN M Y THROAT, 155 LOOKED UP, 164
HEAR, 108, 141, 148 LOSE, 106
HEARING AID, 59 K. LOSE T H E HEID, 149
HEART. 148 KIND, 29, 30, 148 LOVELY, 144
HEDGEHOG. 86 KISS 1. 117 LOW. 162
HIEROGLYPHICS, 162 KISS 2 . 117 LURE. 127
HIS/HER/YOUR/THEIR, 161 KNIFE, 9 0
HIT (TO HIT), 83 KNEEL (ASL), 175 M.
HIT (ASL). 175 KNOCK (TO KNOCK), 83 MACHINE. 31
HIT-IN-THE-EYE, 54 KNOWLEDGE, 157 MAGIC, 97, 100
HIT M E , 129 MAKE LOVE WITH, 117
HOLDING WATER, 85 L. MAMA (Swiss German dialect), 16
HOLD-UP, 145 LAG BEHIND, 116 MARKET(ING), 162
HOLE, 84, 87 LAMP (TABLE LAMP), 99 MASS (LARGE MASS). 86
HOOK, 89 LAMP (STREET LAMP), 99 MASSIVE (MORE MASSIVE THAN A
HOOK (DOUBLE HOOK), 9 1 LAPPING UP, 164 HOUSE), 113
HOP. 154 LAUNCH (MISSILE LAUNCH). 103 MATCH, 118
HORN. 9 3 LAW, 121, 122 MASTURBATE, 3 2
HOUSE, 47,63.113 LAYER. 86. 89. 9 0 , 91 MAYBE. 123, 124
MEASLES, 59 OSCILLATE 1, 124 PLACED GLASS O N TABLE, 174
MEASURE, 61 OSCILLATE 2, 124 PLANES (GROUPS O F PLANES FLEW
MEASURING T A P E , 87 OVERHEAD PROJECTOR (PRESENTER S OVER THE CITY), 7 0
MEET, 66, 117 PERSPECTIVE), 99 PLANK (LONG PLANK), 86
M E E T (ASL), 175 OVERHEAD PROJECTOR (VIEWER'S PER PLANKS, 86
MECHANICAL C L A W, 9 2 SPECTIVE), 99 PLATS, 9 2
MECHANICAL EXCAVATOR, 85 OVERWHELM, 132 PLAY, 192
MECHANICAL GRABBER, 7 1 , 87 PLOUGH, 85
MELT, 111 P. POKE, 88
MICROWAVE, 9 8 PANDA, 58 POLAXED/FLABBERGASTED, 155
MICROWAVE OVEN, 100 PAPER, 85, 86, 87, 89, 154 POLE, 84, 9 3
MIDDLE CLASS, 116 PARAGRAPH. 84 POLE (LONG POLE), 87
MIND W E N T BLANK, 111 PARAGRAPHS, 86 POLICE, 91
MISCARRIAGE, 149 PASSPORT, 91 POLICE CAR/AMBULANCE, 9 9
MENIAL, 116, 162 P A T (TO PAT), 64, 85 POLITICS, 119
MISSILE, 8 8 PATERNALISTIC, 162 POPULAR, 175
MOBILE PHONE, 61, 82 PEN, 9 0 PORCUPINE, 86
MODIFICATION, 128 PENCIL, 88 POST, 9 3
MONEY (HUGE A MOU NT O F MONEY), PENIS (SMALL PENIS), 92 POUND (TO POUND), 83
85 PEOPLE 2 8 POUR (TO POUR LIQUID), 2 8
MORE, 190 PEOPLE (GROUPS O F PEOPLE JOINING PRAISE, 29
MORPHEME, 183 THE END O F A QUEUE), 69 PRECISE, 121
MORTGAGE, 162 PEOPLE (FILING), 6 9 PRECISE(LY) 1, 122
MOUSE-TRAP, 164 PEOPLE (PROCESSING), 69 PRECISE(LY) 2, 122
MUG, 14, 84 PERHAPS, 123, 124, 144 PRECISE(LY) 3, 122
MULL OVER, 2 8 PERIOD, 97 PREDICT, 13
MY, 104 PERSON (BENT PERSON), 89 PRESS (TO PRESS TELEPHONE NUM
PERSON (THE PERSON PASSED THE BERS), 88
N. GROUP), 69 PRESSURISE, 129
NAG (ASL), 175 PERSON (THIN PERSON), 9 0 PREVENT, 131
NAILBRUSH, 84 PERSON (ONE PERSON CONFRONTING PRIEST, 59
NAME, 191 ANOTHER), 67 PRINCIPLE, 122
NASA (SSL), 147 PERSON (ONE PERSON SEPARATING PROCESS. 3 3
NATIVE, 162 FROM ANOTHER PROCESS (TO PROCESS), 2 8
NATIVE LANGUAGE, 162 AND WANDERING O F F INTO THE DIS PROD. 88
NEAR, 114 TANCE), 67 PROGRAMME, 153, 154
NEGOTIATE, 121 PERSON (STANDING BEHIND A PROGRAMME (T.V.), 97, 98, 99
NERVOUS 1, 165, 166 COUNTER), 6 7 PROSPERITY, 149
NERVOUS 2 , 165, 166 PERSON (STANDING BEHIND A DESK), PROVOKE, 129
NEST, 85 6 7 . 174 PROWL, 167
NEVER, 191 PERSON (STANDING BESIDE A ROCK), PROWLED. 166
N E X T YEAR 192 67 PSYCHIATRIST. 144
NICE, 2 9 PERSON (STANDING BESIDE A WALL), PULL BOTH WAYS, 123, 124
NIGHTGOWN, 145 67 PULL (THEY PULLED THE CASE INTO PO
NIPPLES, 3 3 PERSON (TOTTERS ON THE EDGE OF A SITION), 79
NOSE, 32, 9 2 CLIFF), 68 PUNK HAIRSTYLE, 86
N O S E (HOOKED NOSE), 89 PERSON (TWO PERSONS SEPARATELY PURPLE, 142
N O T HEAR, 137 B U T SIMULTANEOUSLY AP PUSH BUTTON RADIO. 88
NOTICE, 104 PROACHING A THIRD PERSON),
N O T INTERESTED, 137 67 Q.
N O T READY, 137 PERSON (WANDER AIMLESSLY QUARREL, 119
N O T SAY, 137 AROUND), 6 8 QUEUE, 153
N O T SEE. 137 PESTLE. 83 QUOTATION MARKS, 91
NUMBER. 190 PHOTOCOPY. 107 R.
PHOTOGRAPH,, 107 RAKE, 58
o . PHOTOGRAPH (TO PHOTOGRAPH), 107 RAN FAST, 166
OBJECT (TO OBJECT), 2 9 PILLAR, 84, 88 REAL, 122
OPPOSITE, 118 PILLAR/COLUMN (OF PRINT), 90 RE-ALLOCATE, 126
OPPRESS, 31, 132 PIN, 87 RECTANGLE, 89
O R AL CONTRACEPTION, 131 PIPE, 63, 84 RED , 17
ORGASM. 148 PLACARD, 160 REFLECTION, 128
R O D (LONG ROD), 84 SENTENCE, 153, 154 STATUS 2 , 115
REGISTER, 153, 154 SEPARATE, 66, 117 STEAL, 105
REJECT a REJECT HIM), 67 SEPARATION, 117 STICKY, 87
REMEMBER, 139, 143, 146 SERGEANT, 9 3 STOP, 17
REPORT, 157 SERVICE, 142 STORY, 143
RESEARCH, 105, 127 SERVILE, 116 STRANGE, 140, 141, 146, 147
RESEMBLANCE, 117, 118 SEW , 17 STRIKE, 97, 106
RESEMBLE, 142 SHAME, 162 STRING, 87
RESEMBLE (ASL), 142 SHELL, 100 STRIPE, 89, 90
RESIGN, 106 SHEEP, 58 STRIPES, 58, 86, 92
RESIST, 131 SHIMMER, 128 STROKE (TO STROKE), 64, 85
RESPOND, 121 SHIPYARD , 9 2 STROLL(ED), 166, 167
RESTLESS (ASL), 175 SHOUT, 98 STROLLED MAJESTICALLY, 166
RESULTS, 105 SHOWER, 100 STRONG BREATH, 108
RETIRE, 106 SIDE BY SIDE, 114 STRUGGLE, 131
RIM, 8 9 , 9 1 SIGHT (CATCH SIGHT OF), 104 STUDY, 146
RIM (OF CONTAINER), 8 6 SIGN, 192 STUDY/LEARN FROM A BOOK, 108
RING (LARGE), 9 2 SIGN LANGUAGE, 148 STYLISTIC REGISTER, 115
RIVULETS, 28, 86 SIMILAR, 118 SUBMARINE, 93, 153, 178
ROCKET, 154, 178 SIMULATED 118 SUBSTITUTE, 126
ROD, 9 0 SIMULTANEOUS, 118 SUCK(ED) IN, 111
ROLLERS (VERTICAL ROLLERS), 179 SLAP (ASL), 175 SUCTION CLEANER, 111
ROLL-ON-FLOOR-WITH-LAUGHTER SLEEP, 145 SUN, 97, 160
(ASL), 175 SLEIGH, 92 SUN (THE SUN DRIED T H E CLOTHES). 160
ROLE-SHIFT, 184 SLICER, 9 0 SUN (TO DRY WITH T H E HEAT O F THE SUN),
RUB (TO RUB), 64, 8 5 SLID. 166 160
RUBIC CUBE, 71, 87 SMALL (CHILD), 113 SUPERIOR. 115
RUMOUR, 143 SMALLER THAN, 114 SURFACE (FLAT SURFACE), 154
RUN, 15 SMELL, 28, 108 SUSPICIOUS, 29, 3 0
SMELL 1, 108 SWAN, 59
s. SMELL 2, 108 SWEAT, 101, 102
SABOTAGE, 131 SMELL 3 , 108 SWEAT (JETS O F SWEAT), 102
SAIL, 85 SMELL 4, 108 SWELLING, 92
SAIL (TO SAIL), 59 SNOUT, 87 SWIM, 15, 191
SALIVA, 101 SOCK I T T O THEM, 129 SWINGING BY LEGS, 165
SAME. 117, 118, 142 SOLDIER, 191 SYCOPHANTIC, 168
SANDWICH, 59 SOLES (THICK SOLES), 84 SYMPATHETIC, 140, 143
SAT (DOWN), 166 SORRY, 192
SAVE O N A COMPUTER, 107 SO-SO, 123, 124 T.
SAW, 64, 85 SPACE SHUTTLE. 59 TABLE, 9 2
SAY, 141, 142, 148 SPARKLY, 128 TABLE (NARROW TABLE), 9 0
SCALPEL. 9 0 SPEAR. 84 TAIL (RAT'S TAIL), 89
SCAN, 153 SPEND, 97, 106 TAIL (FIERY TAIL O F A SHOOTING STAR), 103
SCARS, 87 SPENDTHRIFT, 162 TAKE IN, 127
SCISSORS, 14, 17, 91 SPENDTHRIFT 1, 106 TAKE OVER, 148
SCISSORS ( C U T WITH SCISSORS), 17 SPENDTHRIFT 2 , 106 TAP (TO TAP), 83
SCRAPE (WITH PAWS), 85 SPERM, 3 2 TAP (ON SHOULDER), 85
SCRATCH, 7 1 SPIDER, 71. 87 TAPS, 61
SCREAM, 100 SPINNING, 88 TAPS (LARGE TAPS), 87
SCREWDRIVER, 6 1 SPIRE (NARROW SPIRE), 9 0 TEA BAG, 87
SCUM O F THE EARTH, 116 SPLAYED, 165, 167 TEACH, 180
SEAL, 6 4 SPLIT, 117 TEAPOT. 14, 9 3
SECRET, 142 SPREAD (TO SPREAD), 86 TEASE OUT, 127
SEE, 104, 141, 142, 144, 146, 148 SPURTLE, 88 TELEPHONE, 63. 151, 152
SEEING STARS, 77 SQUARE, 89 TEMPT, 123, 124
SEGREGATION, 117 SQUIRREL, 59 TENT, 87
SEIZE, 105 S T A N D (ASL), 175 TERRIBLE, 29
SELECT, 130 STAR, 101 TESTICLES, 3 3
SELECTIVITY. 130 STARS, 101 THEM, 162
SEND, 9 7 , 9 9 STATUS, 116 THEORY, 2 8
SENSITIVE. 31 STATUS 1, 115 THEORISE, 28
THIEF, 145 WIPE O U T . 131
THINK, 16, 141, 142, 148 WIRE 87.
TIMID, 31 WITHDREW, 166
TINY (KITTEN), 113 WITHOUT, 106
TONGS, 91 WORK, 142
TOOTHACHE, 144 WORKING CLASS, 116
TOSS A N D T UR N , 153 WORM. 71
TOWELS, 85, 8 6 WRIST, 88
TRAFFIC, 9 2 WRITING (CHUNKS O F WRITING), 86
TRAIL ( J E T AEROPLANE'S VAPOUR WRONG, 174, 175
TRAIL), 103
TRANSFER, 31 Y.
TRANSMIT, 9 7 , 9 9 YOUR, 104, 161, 162
TRAY(S), 85, 8 6
TREE, 5 4 , 6 2 , 6 3
TRIP, 190
T R U E , 121
TRY, 121
TUBE-TRAIN, 8 8
TURNTAKING, 120
T.V. AERIAL. 9 3
TYPE, 151, 152

u.
UGLY, 144, 147
UMBRELLA, 191
UNCLE, 7 9
UNDERSTAND, 144, 146, 148
UNREADABLE PRINTOUT, 162
UPPER CLASS, 116
URINATE (MALE), 3 2

V.
VACILLATE, 123, 124
VARIATION, 128
VARIETY, 118
VASECTOMY, 3 2
VIDEOCOPY 1, 107
VIDEOCOPY 2 , 107
VIDEOTAPE, 6 1 , 8 6
VIDEOTAPES, 85
VISTEL/MINICOM, 150, 151, 152
VISUAL PERCEPTION, 109
VOLCANO, 148

w.
W A D ( O F NOTES), 84
WAITING FOR AGES A N D AGES, 139
W AL K , 15, 17
WALK ( C A T WALKING), 6 0
W A R , 119
W A T E R , 154
WATER (DRIPPING), 101
WATER (SPURTING), 101
WATERFALLS, 28
W AVE , 17
(THE) W H E E L NUTS W E R E UNSCREWED,
69
W HE R E , 191
WINDOW, 7 9
WING(S), 85
index of names
A. J. W.
Adams, V. , 177 Jackendoff, R. , 7, 39 Wallin, L. , 40, 140-147, 180
Ahlgren, I. , 65 Johnson, M . , 2 0 , 2 1 , 2 2 , 2 7 , 112, 114, 118 Webster, N . , 98, 122
Aitchison, J. , 151, 171 Johnson, R. , 38, 47, 55, 56, 62 Wilbur, R . , 52, 56, 68, 72,74, 75, 96,165,
Allan, K. , 39. 4 0 - 46, 50. 63, 72, 181
Anderson, S.R. , 11. 12, 153, 173 K. Woll, B . , 14, 15, 23, 30, 178
Aronoff, M. , 5, 172 Karlgren, B. , 13, 78, 80 Woodward, J. , 32
Karlsson, F. , 8
B. Kegl, J. , 68 Y.
Baker, C . , 34, 52, 175 Klima, E . , 13, 52, 136, 140-146, 159 Yau, S.C. , 179
Battison, R. , 146 Koskenniemi, K. , 8
Bauer, L . , 7, 8, 12, 182-184 Kyle, J . G . , 14, 15, 23, 30. 178
Bebian, R. A. , 124, 125
Bellugi, U. , 13, 52, 136, 140-146, 159 L.
Bergman, B . , 14, 16-19 Lakoff, G . , 1 1 , 2 0 , 2 1 , 2 2 , 2 7 , 3 7 , 4 4 , 45,
Boyes-Braem, P. , 13, 16, 23-28, 73, 96, 73, 74, 96, 112, 114, 118, 125
97 Lane, H. , 125
Brennan, M . , 6, 12, 13, 22-24, 32, 33, 45, Lawson, L. , 12, 32
46, 54, 85, 87, 138, 151, 152, 161, Levelt, W.G.M. , 176
163 Liddell, S. , 38, 47, 55, 56, 62, 177
Bybee, J.L. , 12 Lyons, J. , 16, 17, 18, 39

M.
Carroll, L. , 176 Mandel, M. , 14, 53
Chinchor, N . , 173 Marchand, H. , 123
Cokely, D. , 34, 52, 125 Martinet, A. , 24, 179
Collins-Ahlgren, M. , 40 Mathews, P.H. , 176
Colville, M.D. , 15, 32, 45, 46, 54, 138, McDonald, B.H. , 13, 28, 38, 47, 48, 49,
150 54, 163, 181
Corazza, S . , 4 0 Mclntire, M. , 15
Craig, C., 40, 44 Miles, D. , 14, 23
Crystal, D. , 35, 38, 46
N.
D. Newport, E . L . , 38. 50, 51, 52. 57, 62, 68.
Dahl, . . 73, 74, 138, 139 160, 161
Denmark, C. , 110, 124 Norman, N. , 78, 80
Deuchar, M. , 14, 15, 23
P.
E. Padden, C. , 6, 55
Eliot, G . , 138 Peirce, C.S. , 16
Philip, F. , 125
F.
Fischer, S. , 102 Q.
Friedman, L. , 33, 146 Quirk, R. , 160, 177, 178

Goral, D. R. , 40 Saussure, F. de , 17
Greenberg, J.H. , 39, 4 0 Schick, B. , 163, 165
Scott Gibson, L. , 159
H. Siple, P. , 33
Hausman, C.R. , 156 Stokoe, W.C. , 12, 13, 25, 163
Hawkes, T. , 19. 20, 21 Supalla, T . , 13, 38, 47, 50-58, 62, 63,
Heasley, B., 7 3 , 7 4 160-165, 181
Hoijer, H . , 49
Hughes, G. , 12, 3 2 T.
Hughes, T. , 68, 76, 103 Thiel, G. , 8
Hurford, J.R. , 73, 74 Turner, M. , 20, 96, 125
it!