Spatial metaphor and expressions of identity in sign language Poetry

RL Sutton-Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)


Sign languages are visual languages. Signers place signs in space to represent both concrete and abstract meaning, drawing on literal and metaphorical uses of space. This paper considers the ways that four sign language poems use space metaphorically in the exploration of the poets’ identities as Deaf people. Signs placed across the sagittal, vertical and transverse axes are used to signal different views of identity, drawing upon basic cognitive spatial and orientational metaphors to refer to self and others, as well as values and conflicts between identities and their resolution. The spatial metaphors identified here interact with several other inter-connected metaphors, none of which can work alone. The complex interaction of these metaphors to describe a signer’s identity is inextricably bound up with the embodiment of sign languages, so that the form of the human body foregrounds – and, perhaps even, predetermines – the metaphors selected by signers to conceptualise Deaf identity1.
Translated title of the contributionSpatial metaphor and expressions of identity in sign language Poetry
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 40
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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