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Sign Me Up! Online Edition

William G. Vicars, Ph.D.

MCSE, MCT, MCP+I, A+, Network+, EdNet

Opening "Chat Log February 10" 
(Chapter 6) 

DrVicars: Good evening! 

DrVicars: What time you all have? 

Sandy: 9:03 
Daniel: 8:55 EST 
Tigie: 5:58 
Lii: Hi, everyone!:-)  6:55MST 

DrVicars: Let's get started then. 

DrVicars: Any general questions before I go over the agenda? 

[Various procedural questions] 

DrVicars: Our agenda for tonight:  Classifiers, Initialization, Terminology, Feelings and
Requests.  Then I will assign homework after which we will have a Q and A session.  That work for you all?  :) 

Tigie: :-) 

DrVicars: Here we go, what is a classifier?  What do you think Art? 

Art: I think you caught me not doing today's homework. 

DrVicars: Heh, sorry, for putting you on the spot. 

Lii: It's the form of the fingers or hands to initiate a sign.  Such as... if you want to sign a cup or a
plate, you form either a small circle with the hands, or you form a larger circle with the hands. 

Tigie: Like long narrow things and round flat things 

Daniel: Signs that represent classes of objects such as land or water vehicles as a group. 

DrVicars: Those are some great answers, I think we are getting there.  :)  Now give me a real
example example... [time passes] ...Anyone feel free... 

Sandy: Like using the index finger to show long skinny things? 

DrVicars: Good, right.  Let me explain it a bit more for you.  If I want to show a person walking
and I have established him to the right I can take the right index finger and move it to the left to
represent "Fred" moving across the room or whatever If I do it with a smile It means Fred is
happy If I do it quickly It means Fred is hustling etc.  [The smiling and manner of movement are
what you would call "inflecting" the sign for meaning.] 

Sandy: What I didn't understand in looking at this was - isn't it overly broad?  Is it really

DrVicars: Think of classifiers as a type of pronoun. 

DrVicars: You have to identify your pronoun before you can use it. Also you have to use it in
context. I cant just start a conversation with you by signing,  "HE WALK." I have to set up
some sort of situation or context, then I spell F-R-E-D, and then point to the right then form the
INDEX  classifier and move it to the left. 

Tigie: How do you know that classifier "F" isn't part of a word instead of a small round thing? 

DrVicars: Great question.  The answer is context.  It is the same way you know the letter O and
the number 0 are different.  It depends where they show up. 

Sandy: So, classifiers are used later on in the "sentence,"--it makes more sense now. 

DrVicars: I don't expect you all to be experts at classifiers, just want you to know they exist. 
An example on that "F" concept:  If I sign "I BUY NEW SHIRT" then I touch an F on my chest
and throw it off suddenly it could mean:  "and the button popped off."  The "F" classifier
acquired the meaning of "button" because of the context and placement. 

Tigie: would anyone understand that a button popped off and not for instance a bottle cap? 

DrVicars:  Remember this concept:  "Show, don't tell."  It is much faster to create an imaginary
person or object then show what happens to it or him--than to describe every item in the
situation.  In the case of the bottle cap I would have had to indicate a bottle of some kind before
using an f classifier.  The only possible classifier in the shirt example would be a button, because
that was the context. 

Lii: Why would you use the "F" sign to show a button popped off?  Wouldn't you use a "B?" 

DrVicars: Because an "F" has a round hole representing the shape of a button.  Remember ASL
is not trying to link to English it is trying to communicate a concept. 

Lii: Thanks, that makes perfect sense. 

DrVicars: Great.  There are a number of text books that go into greater detail than here.  If you
are interested in more info check the bibliography and/or I will be happy to discuss this more
next week if you would like  :) 

Okay, now let's talk about initialization.  Any body with a short definition? 

Lii: Would an example be...F for family? 

DrVicars: Perfect. 

DrVicars: and a C for class, and a T for team 

Sandy: explain what was meant by [an earlier comment] "these are forms of old signs," please. 

DrVicars: Sure. 

DrVicars: In the "OLD" days ASL was even less connected to English than today.  Many
educators felt that they needed to more closely represent English for their students in the
classroom so they started adding letters to the words by replacing the old handshapes with the
first letter of the English word. 

Monica:  One of my texts advises caution in using initialized signs, what is your opinion?  How
do you use them? 

DrVicars: I use them sparingly.  Sure, I sign Family with an F, and the normal signs for Team
and Class etc. You just have to hang out with Deaf people, or buy two or three sign dictionaries
that that focus on ASL and look for the recurring initializations. If you see two or three ASL
dictionaries using it, then it is safe to assume the deaf community probably has adopted it.  [But
when in doubt, ask 10 or more Deaf people.] 

Monica: :-D 

Sandy: that brings up a question - my day-to-day does not have Deaf people in it -- do groups
mind if you join them just to practice signing? 

DrVicars: Most deaf are really happy to "include" you. 

Sandy: I don't mean just to practice - you know... 

DrVicars: I say "include" meaning if they know you are sincere. 

Sandy: :-) 

DrVicars: If you keep showing up. If you don't butt in and act like you know alot, when all you
really know is child talk. 

Sandy: no fear there :) 

DrVicars: Spend more  time watching and asking questions than you do making comments. 

Art: I borrowed a book from the library and I realized that to learn ASL you really need to have
someone else to sign with. 

DrVicars: It sure helps!  Kind-of like if you want to learn how to surf, it's helpful to have some

Lii: It sounds just like with Native Americans.  The sincerity has to be there, and you really have
to listen more than talk.  That's how you also gain respect. 

DrVicars: Let me suggest something you don't do. Don't ask what the swear words are.  Relax
a little.  Believe me, after they get to know you, you'll see plenty.  [Depending on the group you
hang out with of course.]  Deaf get tired of hearing people who only want to use their language
for base reasons. 

Art: The library also has the video, "Say and Sign It" 

Lii: My library has the same video.  It's really good! 

Monica: My library has a 16 video set, but all beginning videos are always checked out. 

DrVicars: Sign Enhancers? 

Monica: Yes 

DrVicars: Tell them to put a hold on one of them and call you when they come in. 

Monica: They won't do that! 

DrVicars: You might consider petitioning your library for more videos. 

Art: They sign too fast. 

Lii: They do, but it sure helps to keep watching and pretty soon, it gets easier. 

DrVicars: Practice makes easier, GA San 

Sandy: Are there helps in the videos, i.e., subtitles? 

DrVicars: Depends which video.  Most either have captions or sound. 

Art: They show it first  and later explain and go over it. and show it again. 

Lii: I still have trouble understanding other people, such as when my friends signed.  I guess... 

[At this point I lost my internet connection and was "kicked off."  It took me a few minutes to

You have just entered room "Classroom" 

DrVicars: I'm Baaaaaak.  Hey sorry about that. 

Lii: LOL 

Art: I was just mentioning the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Forum on AOL 

DrVicars: Right, have you visited much? 

Art: Not yet but many great links. 

DrVicars: Sure. 

[various chat] 

DrVicars: Okay, let's talk about terminology. Any questions regarding big words?  Or definitions
of deafness-related words? 
If you need me to elaborate on something, feel free. 

Sandy: Are the months always fingerspelled, even with the abbreviations? 

DrVicars: ASL tends to used spelled abbreviations of three letters except for months with five or
fewer letters.  [Here is the list of abbreviations to use when spelling months, notice that
September uses 4 letters:  JAN, FEB, MARCH, APRIL, MAY, JUNE, JULY, AUG, SEPT,

DrVicars: Signed English has signs for the months, but the abbreviated spellings are so quick it
seems most Deaf prefer to spell them. 

[various discussion] 

DrVicars: Now let's talk about the signs for subject areas:  Feelings and Requests.  The most
important part of any "feeling-related" sign is your facial expression 

Sandy:  Please elaborate a little on the motion for "HOW." 

DrVicars: I take a C hand and put the thumb along the index finger, so it looks like a C without
the thumb.  Do this on both hands.  Then touch the fingernails of your hands fingernails together,
palms back, knuckles facing forward. Then roll the hands forward so that your palms are facing
up.  Need more explanation? 

Sandy: no - thank you 

Monica: Could you do the same for happy, please 

DrVicars: Sure.  "B" hands, thumbs relaxed, palm facing your chest, one hand higher than the
other bring both hands inward to the chest and "slap" slightly, (or just act like you are). 

The motion is a rolling motion and repeats a couple times, it moves back, up, out, down, back. 
The bigger the motion and the more facial expression--the happier you are. 

Monica: Ahhhh!  Thanks  :-D 

Lii: Can you sign happy with just one hand?  Or do you need both. 

DrVicars: If you are holding a drink in your left hand, I recommend you use only the right :) 

Sandy: LOL 

DrVicars: Heh, yes, yes, you can do it with one hand. That is the difference between signing
casually and signing formally. 

Lii: Thanks so much.  LOL 

DrVicars: Great question, by the way. 

DrVicars: Most signs tend to become easier over time. The old signs [like "CAT"] used to use
two hands. Now they use only one.  It's my understanding that the old sign for long used to
come up the leg.  You had to bend over to sign it.  You can bet the Deaf Community wouldn't
keep that one around "for long."  It is perfectly acceptable if you are eating a sandwich to hold it
in one hand and sign with the other. 

Lii: That's helpful, because I use a cane.  I wondered what I'd do. 

DrVicars: Let me share something sensitive with you.  My daughter has APERT Syndrome. 
Her hands are all mucked up.  The fingers are fused together.  She just got out of the hospital
(again) after surgery on the skull and fingers.  Now here is my point: even though she might not
end up with five digits on each hand, I know my deaf friends will still love and accept her. 

And will eventually even forget if she is missing a finger or two.  The reason is deaf people look
at your face when you communicate.  They want to see your eyes and your emotions--your
hands are just an accessory to help them read your face. 

DrVicars: I really believe that.  I have had complete conversations with people who had no
control over their individual digits but could only move their hands in general--and I understood
them as well or better than "normal" signers.  Sure, they worked harder at making big, obvious
motions, but they got their messages across just fine. 

Lii: I appreciate you sharing that.  Thanks.  It was most helpful. 

Art: That's amazing.  I noticed in the video [from the library] the faces are really animated. 

DrVicars: Right, exactly!...Many hearies are considered "monotone" because they don't use
enough facial expressions. 

Monica: At what point is it over dramatic for facial expressions?  Or too animated? 

DrVicars: Wow, great question.  I would say it gets back to that bit about sincerity.  If you are
really feeling it and it comes out that is fine.  If you are just trying to impress someone--you might
look like a five year old girl in her mom's makeup. 

Tigie: :)  You have to be kind of brave, to show so much emotion in your face, don't you? 

DrVicars: At first yes.  Then later it becomes easy. Interestingly enough, it is easier to apologize
in sign.  I have gotten choked up before using voice, but could still sign my apology.  :) 

DrVicars: Also I've noticed in church when the hearing people (who can sign) get all choked up
during a "testimony" meeting, they will stop voicing but keep signing. 

Sandy: :-) 

DrVicars: I'd like to do more research on it someday.  I want to check into using sign as a
method for victims of abuse whom have a difficult time discussing "it" to sign about it and get it
out in the open and deal with it. 

Monica: Great idea! 

Sandy: In our county, they are beginning to do that with great success. 

[various chat] 

DrVicars: Hmmm. Okay well then, time is growing short so let me assign homework. Not much
this time, just amounts, colors, and money.  Make sure to take a look at  the signs and let me
know next week if you need any help figuring them out.  That wraps it up for me.  Thanks for a
great class.  I appreciate all the comments.  Anything else before I sign off? 

Art: Thank you. 

Sandy: Really learned alot again tonight. 

Lii: Thank you, and have a great week. :-) 

Daniel: Thank you.  Have a good night all. 

Jessie: Thanks and good night 

DrVicars: I'll get the log posted in the Libary, see you all later. 

Monica: good night 

Closing "Chat Log #6"