ASL users inflect their signs to modify the meaning of the
For example, instead of using a sign for "VERY" in
the sentence, "I am very
happy to be done with the
semester." A skilled ASL user would sign "I
SEMESTER FINISH." He would do the sign "happy" in an
exaggerated fashion with a bigger movement and a slight hold on the first
"slap of the chest." Plus he would use increased facial
expression and maybe a quick glance upward.
You could inflect the sign "slow" by doing it
slower than normal, which would mean "very slow."
(Interestingly enough though, if you use a very quick movement to do the
sign slow it also means "very slow.")
ASL often creates "adverbs" by simply inflecting existing signs.
What is an "adverb?"
Adverbs are units of language that are used to change the meaning of
verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
ASL adverbs can be signs, facial expressions, modifications (changes) in the
way we move a sign, or modifications in the length of time we hold a sign in
one place .
For example, suppose our friend got sunburned badly and I wanted to tell you
about it, I might wish to express the concept:
"His face was very red."
In that sentence the word "very" is an adverb. The word "red" is an
In ASL I'd use the signs: "HIS FACE RED." To indicate the
concept of "very red" I would "inflect" (change the way I signed) the
concept "red" in the following ways:
1. I'd use an intense facial expression
2. I'd hold the initial handshape in starting location for a fraction
of an instant longer before starting the movement.
3. I'd do a larger downward movement.
4. I'd hold the ending handshape in the ending location for a fraction of an
instant longer than normal.
5. At the beginning of the sign I'd tilt my head back slightly and then as I
did the sign I'd nod my head using a single, short, quick movement.
6. My elbow would stick slightly farther out to the side at the beginning of
the sign and bring the elbow down sharply during the sign.
Those six modifications (inflections) to the sign "RED" would change the
sign to mean "very-RED." So you could call those six modifications "an
adverb" or a combination of adverbs.
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