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ASL Linguistics: Pronoun placement

In a message dated 9/11/2007 10:54:36 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, sp99@earthlink.net writes:
Bill:
 
I am teaching my homeschooled senior 3rd semester ASL and we have some confusion regarding placement of pronouns such as in:
 
I am a student.             We would sign it as:     I student I.
Oh, I understand.         We would sign it as:    Oh-I-see. Understand I.
 
The confusion arises whenever other materials place the I at the beginning or the end, sometimes in the middle.  Is there a hardfast
rule for the pronoun placement?
 
I've referred to your website in previous years and am glad to see how it has grown.  Thanks very much.
 
Debbie Petter
 
 
Debbie,
There are a number of "correct" variations of "pronoun placement" (word order) in American Sign Language (Humphries & Padden, 1992).

For example you could say: "I STUDENT I" or, "I STUDENT" or even, "STUDENT I." 
Note: The concept of "I" in these sentences is done by pointing an index finger at your chest and/or touching the tip of the index finger to your chest.

You could sign:

"I FROM U-T-A-H I."
"I FROM U-T-A-H."
"FROM U-T-A-H I."

All of the above statements are "ASL."

I notice that some "ASL" teachers tend to become fanatical about encouraging their students to get as far away from English word order as possible and thus focus on the version "FROM U-T-A-H I."

It has been my experience during my various travels across the U.S. that the versions "I STUDENT" and "I FROM U-T-A-H" work great and are less confusing to the majority of people.

The version "FROM UTAH I" tends to be used only after the subject of the conversation has been introduced.  For example, suppose two people are talking about a man named Bob.  If one of them says he "thought Bob was from California" and I happen to know he is really from Utah, I would sign "FROM UTAH HE" while nodding.

________________________________________________________________________
References:
Humphries, T., & Padden, C. (1992). Learning American sign language. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

 

 


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