___ I understand the importance of
I know what the acronym NMM stands for.
___ I am able to recognize and sign
numbers 11-20 ___ I am able to define "initialization"
___ I am able to
establish tense ___ I can name four sign
parameters ___ I can define the word "predicate"
___ I explain how ASL deals with "ing, s, and ed"
suffixes ___ I understand that ASL has
its own syntax.
___ I understand
[Negation: not, don't, reversal of orientation]
___ I have taken the
___ I have taken the general practice quiz for this lesson.
See: PRACTICE QUIZZES ___ I am done with Lesson 3
ALL-[#ALL, whole] ASK-[ask-to, inquire, request] BAD
MY FAMILY ALL LIKE GO GRANDMA HOUSE.
SHE LIVE CITY SMALL.
HER HOUSE BIG. BATHROOM HAVE THREE.
MY DAD GROW-UP THERE.
I THINK HOUSE SWELL.
DAD THINK SO-SO.
MY DAD not-LIKE SCHOOL THERE.
WHY-[rhetorical]? TEACHER THEY BAD.
HAVE ONE NICE TEACHER. NAME SMITH.
DAD THINK SHE GOOD.
THAT SCHOOL NEED MORE GOOD TEACHER.
<<A student writes: Around 0:13 you fingerspell R-I-V-E-R-D-A-L-E then
immediately do something I can't make out. It looks like you make an R with
your hand and move it sideways & down while looking to the side. Is this a
name sign for the city? Later at about 0:37 you make the same
R-gesture to refer to Riverdale. I can't tell if it's some kind of indexing
I haven't come across before, or something else. Is this something I should
expect to see more of as I gradually build up enough skill to converse with
some of my new Deaf friends? >>
ANSWER: Yes, that sign you are seeing with the "R"-handshape is
indeed referring to the city of Riverdale. It is the "name
sign" for Riverdale city. (And quite a few other cities I'm sure.)
While there are many different name signs for various cities -- one of the
more common themes is to trace a "7" in the air using the initial of the
city. Do not assume that applies to any particular city though. Ask
the local Deaf natives what they use. Here in Sacramento we just spell
"SAC." Back in Brigham City we spelled BC (which happens to also mean
"birth control" ...hmmm).
Changing your facial expression; tilting, shaking, or
nodding your head; and hunching your shoulders are all "nonmanual markers."
The term "nonmanual marker" means a signal that you do without using your hands that
influences (marks) the meaning of what you are signing. Think of NMMs
as "signs that you do without using your hands."
The grammar of American Sign Language can generally be thought of as
"TOPIC" "COMMENT" arrangement.
This is could also called
"subject" + "predicate" sentence structure.
predicate is a word, sign, or phrase that "says something" about the
in the English sentence, "Sarah is sleepy." Sarah is the
topic or subject. The comment or predicate consists of "is
sleepy." ASL doesn't use "be verbs" (state of being
verbs) so the sentence
can be signed as "SARAH SLEEPY" while nodding your head.
If you need to adjust the tense of your sentence it is best to establish
your time frame up front: TIME" + "TOPIC" +
"COMMENT." That allows us to avoid needing to conjugate ASL
verbs. ("Conjugate" is just a big word for "create a different form.
For example "wash" becomes "washed" or "run" becomes "ran.") ASL
doesn't need to change its verbs to show tense since if the time frame is
not the present we state that at the beginning of our sentence.
"WEEK-PAST ME WASH CAR"
"WEEK-PAST, CAR? I/ME WASH"
"WEEK-PAST, CAR? I/ME WASH I-[did].
Which of those versions we choose to sign depends (largely) on two things:
1. What signer wishes to emphasize.
2. What sort of information the signer and the audience already share.
tells you that ASL can't use a "subject" + "verb" +
"object" sentence structure is simply denying reality. ASL
uses SVO quite often.
What ASL doesn't use is "subject" +
"be-verb" + "object." For example, in ASL you
wouldn't sign the "is" in "HE IS MY BROTHER."
You'd simply sign "HE MY BROTHER" while nodding your head.
Instead of signing "IS" you nod your head.
The concept of "is"
didn't "disappear" it simply took a "non-manual" form.
We say that ASL doesn't use "be verbs." It would perhaps be more
accurate to say that ASL indicates "states of being" differently than
concepts of "being" and "existing: are still conveyed--but we do it without
specific signs for specific
"be verbs." We use other methods such as context,
nodding our heads, or signs
such as "THERE," "HAVE," and "TRUE" (among others).
"I am a teacher," can be signed:
"I TEACHER I"
also, "I am from Utah," can be signed:
"I FROM UTAH I"
"I FROM UTAH"
"FROM UTAH I"
All of the above examples are
You could sign any of those sentences and still be signing ASL. The "correct" version
can be though of as being the version works for the
greatest number of signers. (The version that succeeds in allowing two or
more people to communicate.) I've lived in Utah, California, Indiana,
Washington D.C., Texas, and Oregon, plus I've visited quite a few other
places. It has been my experience during my various travels that "I
STUDENT" and "I FROM UTAH" work just fine and are less
confusing than "STUDENT I" and "FROM UTAH I."
If you wanted to ask someone "Where are you from?" -- many ASL teachers
will tell you to sign it as: "YOU FROM WHERE?" The reason for this is
because when you sign "WH" type questions you generally should furrow your
eyebrows. By putting the "WH" word / sign (such as "WHERE") at the end
you can reduce the amount of time you have to furrow your eyebrows.
(In other words, putting "WH"-type question signs at the end of the sentence
is more efficient since you don't have to furrow your brows the whole
However, when meeting a Deaf person in real life you are likely to see
"Where are you from?" signed as: "YOU FROM?"-(with the eyebrows furrowed
when you sign FROM -- thus causing the sign FROM to mean ".where from?").
We can write this as: "YOU FROM-[where]?"
I lowercase the word "where" as my way of indicating that the concept of
"where" doesn't have to use a separate sign but rather is incorporated into
the FROM sign by furrowing the eyebrows.
Thus: FROM + [furrowed eyebrows] = "Where from?"
Student: "So, Dr. Bill, are you telling me that furrowed eyebrows
Dr. Bill: "I'm telling you that in context furrowing your eyebrows can
turn certain other signs into 'WH'-type questions such as who, what, when,
where, why, how, how many, etc." For example, if you do the sign NAME
with furrowed eyebrows you create the meaning of "What is the name of?"
The sign for "What is the name of...?" can thus be signed with one sign
while furrowing the eyebrows. We could type that as: NAME-[what]?
As far as a sentence without "be" verbs,
the English sentence "I am a teacher" can be signed as:
I TEACHER I-[nod]
[context] TEACHER I-[nod]
The second version (I TEACHER I-[nod])
can be thought of as meaning:
"I teacher, I am."
Students sometimes read:
"I TEACHER I" -- and think that it means you are simply copying the sign
"I/ME" at the end of the sentence. Really though the sign at the end
is more about the nod than pronoun. It isn't just the "I/ME" sign
repeated but rather it is a "nod" that is important.
To be more obvious we could write: "I/ME-[nod]" which means "I am."
So instead of writing "I TEACHER I" we could be more clear by writing:
I TEACHER I-[nod]
Remember, the pronoun reproduced at the end of the sentence isn't about
emphasizing the subject again but rather the copied pronoun is about
creating the concept of "am." It is a replacement for the be
Signed sentences (in real life) take place in context. If someone asks
YOU what YOU do for a living you don't need to start your sentence with
"I/ME." Your conversation partner already supplied that part of your
sentence for you. Thus we can think of your sentence as being:
"[context = "I"] TEACHER I-[nod]" which would actually be more signing than
you need to do since your conversation partner established so much context
you could sign even less:
Signer A: YOU DO-[what]?
Signer B: TEACHER.
In real life with context you don't need to sign "I/ME TEACHER I/ME-[nod]"
when simply signing "TEACHER" or even just "TEACH" will convey your message
accurately and efficiently.
That being the case, the "real life" grammar of ASL could be thought of as:
[context] + [minimum number of signs to accurately and efficiently convey
Dr. Bill: Suppose I
index BOB on my right and FRED on my left. Then I sign
from near my body to the place where I indexed Bob. That means, "I give to
If I sign GIVE TO starting the movement from the place off to the right and move it to
the left it means Bob gave to Fred. If I sign starting from off to the left and bring the sign GIVE TO toward my body what
Dr Bill: Tense would be established before signing the rest of the sentence. I would
say, "YESTERDAY ME-GIVE-TO B-0-B" The fingerspelling of BOB would be immediately
after the ME-GIVE-TO and I would spell B-O-B slightly more to the right than normal. That way I
wouldn't need to point to Bob. However there are three or four other acceptable ways to
sign the above sentence. You could establish Bob then indicate that yesterday you gave it to
Lii: Can tense be done at end of sentence, or is that confusing?
Dr Bill: That is confusing--I don't recommend it. I can however give you an example of
"appropriately" using a time sign at the end of a sentence. Suppose I'm talking
with a friend about a problem that occurred yesterday and I sign: TRY FIND-OUT WHAT-HAPPEN
Dr Bill: That sentence talks about a situation that happened before now, but the
current conversation is happening now. Some people might try to put the sign
at the beginning of that sentence, but I wouldn't--it feels awkward.
Lii: How does one go about using ing, s, and ed endings ? Does it need to be done?
Dr Bill: Good question Lii...
Sandy: Similar question - how do we use punctuation--other than emphasis
face? Just pause?
Dr Bill: Again a good question. Okay then, let me go ahead and answer both questions
briefly here, then we'll hear comments from those of you who have them.
Dr Bill: "s" is a pluralization topic. You can pluralize any particular
concept in a number of ways. So far in our lessons we have been using a sweeping motion, (To turn the word
"HE" into the word "THEY"). "ed" is established by using a "tense
marker" like PAST or is understood by
context. For example if I know you are talking about a trip you went on last week, You
don't need to keep signing "PAST," I would understand it was past tense. You could
sign "TRUE GOOD" and I would know you meant the trip went really well.
Dr Bill: Now, punctuation. You are right, you punctuate a sentence via your pauses and
Dr Bill: "ing, ed, and other suffixes are not used in ASL. If I want to change
"learn" into "learning" I simply sign it twice to show it is a process. Many times the
"ing" is implied. For example, "YESTERDAY I RUN" would be interpreted as "Yesterday I went for a
run," or you could interpret it as, "Yesterday I went running." How you interpret it would
depend on the rest of the message (context). If you want to sign dying
as opposed to "die" or "dead" you would do the sign
slower (more drawn out) and not quite "finish" the sign before
moving on to the next sign in your sentence.
Topic: "Politically correct vs. Culturally correct"
Near the end of the twentieth century, the hearing political
community pushed the idea that it was "politically correct" to call Deaf and
hard of hearing people "hearing impaired." So
for quite a while the general public worked hard at using the label
"hearing impaired" as a way of referring to Deaf people.
This label was rejected by Deaf people. The Deaf community (a social and
cultural community) prefer to be called Deaf. The term Deaf is socially and
culturally correct even if certain politicians persist in calling Deaf
people hearing impaired. Political correctness changes over time.
What is politically correct in one community may be incorrect in another
community. Politicians who are "in
the know" now use the term "Deaf." For more
information see my