Role Shift in bsl

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Role Shift in BSL

‘Role Shift’ is the technique used by a signer to take different roles of different characters within a story.
The roles within the story will include the narrator and the characters.
When the signer is narrating the story they will look directly at their conversational partner and sign in the same way as the narrator of a story will look at their conversation partner in English. This is essentially simply about telling a story.

When the signer is in character, they will position themselves to model the position of the character within the story and will look toward whatever the character was looking at.
This may mean that, if a signer is telling a story about themselves having an argument with their partner, they would start in ‘Narrator’ mode by looking directly at you to introduce the topic, such as signing ‘Last night me and my husband had a terrible row!’ The signer may then go into ‘Character’ role and sign both side of the row almost acting out of content of the row as if you were watching it live. The signer would not look at you during this character signing. Instead, the signer would shift their head position and posture between the two sides of a conversation (the two characters) and sign what was actually said at the time of the row ) as if it was happening live).

There are many different ways that the signer may identity the particular character that they are acting at any given moment. These range from:

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