I: Hand Shapes

BSL is a very rich, visual language consisting of thousands of signs. But the hand shapes that make up those signs are limited to approximately 40.

A sign is usually made up of a handshape or two combined, a movement and a location.

As the movement, location and orientation of a handshape varies and can be combined with other signs it gives us a very wide BSL vocabulary.

A flat handshape can represent a flat surface but also many other signs or combined with other signs.

Another commonly used handshape is the single index finger. This can represent a person. But the index finger can be used for many other signs. Make sure your handshapes are very clear and accurate. Don’t stick that thumb out with this handshape, it can change the meaning of the signs!

The ‘V’ handshape facing downwards can represent the two legs of a person but the ‘V’ can also represent the eyes.

The thumb is often a handshape with a good or positive meaning.

The little finger is often a handshape with a bad or negative meaning.

Making a ‘Y’ shape is another handshape.