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Ranking in ASL:
List indexing on the non-dominant hand. See: https://youtu.be/RVqDPNNQb9M
The process of using the "non-dominant" hand to index things (for example, family members) is called "list indexing" and is an approach to "rank ordering" or "ranking."
If you are describing your family you can mention your parents and then you can introduce the children from oldest to youngest by using your non-dominant hand as a type of list.
If there are three children hold the left hand (if you are right-handed) in a "three handshape" and start by tapping the the left-hand thumb with the tip of the right-hand index-finger.
If there are four children in the family you use your index finger through pinkie.
If there are five or more children, you start with your thumb and work your way down.
If you happen to have more than six children, for the sixth through ninth child you make the number on your left hand and tap the thumb-tip (and the tip of whatever finger it may be touching) of the non-dominant hand with tip of the dominant-hand index finger.
If you have 10 or more children you can keep counting on the non-dominant hand or switch over to counting on the dominant hand (with or without the tapping).
What is cool about "ranking" is that you can use the non-dominant hand digits or the non-dominant number handshapes as referents. After you've established which finger (or number) represents whom, you can point back to that finger to indicate the person or add more information about the person.
Example of ranking:
I "K-E-L-S-E-Y S-M-I-T-H"
MOTHER FATHER DEAF
FATHER NAME "B-I-L-L"
HAVE TWO BROTHER ONE SISTER
[Hold up your left hand in a "four" handshape, palm facing back, arm held at a comfortable angle, keep it there.]
[Touch the tip of the index finger of the left "four" hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right "one" hand.]
BROTHER, "L-O-G-A-N," HEARING, MARRIED, 2 CHILDREN
[Touch the tip of the middle finger of the left "four" hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right "one" hand.]
[Touch the tip of the ring finger of the left "four" hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right "one" hand.]
BROTHER, "F-R-E-D," DIVORCED, ZERO CHILDREN
[Touch the tip of the pinkie finger of the left "four" hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right "one" hand.]
SISTER, "S-A-R-A-H," DEAF, SINGLE
[Note: The above story is not accurate. It is just a practice story.]
In a message dated 10/11/20__ 4:56:52 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, cyalatermills writes:Good Morning Dr Bill,... I have a question regarding ranking if you are an only child. How would you express that? Would you still point to your index finger on your non dominant hand and then give your name or age etc...?Thank you so much for your input and time!
Only children do not need to (and should not) rank themselves.
Suggested options in no particular order:
1. I/ME BROTHER SISTER NONE.
2. I/ME BROTHER NONE SISTER NONE
3. I/ME NONE BROTHER SISTER.
4. I/ME SINGLE CHILD.
- Dr. Bill
In a message dated Jun 16, 20__ 8:48 am Michelle C. writes:
First, let me start with my appreciation and gratitude for your website and the plethora of info you provide. I am learning so much through the self study curriculum. I wish I lived in SAC as I would be in your class! Your personality is so fun and expressive and I can understand your jokes through your signing and I am only on lesson 3. As a beginner, this is very motivating. I want to know when you will do online classes with interaction via live chats or videos. I know there is only so much time in your day and you need to feed yourself and your family and such, but selfishly, I want to learn directly from you!! Anyway, on to the reason for my email.
I wanted to create a similar story (on video) to introduce myself and my family (similar to story 2B). However, ranking seems cumbersome as I am the youngest of 10 children. I read the following in the "ranking" section:
"If there are five or more, you start with your thumb and work your way down. If by chance you happen to have more than six children, for the sixth through ninth child you make the number on your left hand. What is cool about "ranking" is that you can use the fingers as referents. After you've established which finger represents whom, you can point back to that finger to indicate the person or add more information about the person."
My questions are:
1. I do not see 10 in this ranking info, only 6-9, did I miss something?
2. Is there a better or faster way of expressing this information? I want to include that I am the youngest of 10, I have 7 sisters, 2 brothers. My mom and dad are deceased, but my stepmom is still living.
3. Should I go through the ranking structure simply for practice?
4. Are there more common ways the deaf community expresses this information?
5. I tried asking this question on a FB page and got too many versions [I am new at ASL, so I confuse easily :) ] one comment even said "I bet she is sorry she posted that question" after the 3rd or 4th version LOL.
Thank you for your time in advance. I can't wait for this COVID stuff to dissipate so I can immerse myself in deaf culture events and really start observing... the online exposure has been ok, but not the same.
[Editors note: Michelle may or may not be this person's real name.]
In response to your questions:
Question: 1. I do not see 10 in this ranking info, only 6-9, did I miss something?
Reply: [I'll add 10 and up to the instructions.]
Being a "tenth" child (or 11th, 12th, etc.) follows the same pattern -- you just sign 10 on your non-dominant hand (without the need to "tap" the non-dominant hand with the dominant hand). You could also just switch over to your dominant hand and sign 10. Some signers might even sign "number 10." This isn't worth stressing about because, really, after child number six nobody is paying attention to you anymore so it doesn't matter. By around child number eight they are thinking about lunch or wondering if you are in need of an intervention.
Question: 2. Is there a better or faster way of expressing this information? I want to include that I am the youngest of 10, I have 7 sisters, 2 brothers. My mom and dad are deceased, but my stepmom is still living.
Reply: There are gobs of better, faster, more efficient ways to sign the information -- yet there are trade offs. You want a really fast way? Type it up and print it on little cards and stick them in your purse. When it is time to tell someone about your family, hand them a card. BOOM! All done. About 2 seconds total. Or hey send them a link to a picture of your family with all the faces tagged. ZAP! All done!
Question: 3. Should I go through the ranking structure simply for practice?
Reply: If it makes you happy, sure. Most people only actually list off all their family members a "handful" of times in their entire life: A couple times while dating (because the other person wants to know what they are getting into), once during ASL class, and at parties after enough drinks that they mistakenly think anyone cares.
I mean, seriously, in English, how many times do you list off every family member? I guess when you get all the way up to 10 brothers and sisters it becomes sort of a party trick and people gather around and chant while you do it.
Question: 4. Are there more common ways the Deaf community expresses this information?
Reply: Having ten or more children is not common -- so "no." There is not a "common" approach in the Deaf community to talk about the "tenth child."
Question: 5. I tried asking this question on a FB page and got too many versions [I am new at ASL, so I confuse easily :) ] one comment even said "I bet she is sorry she posted that question" after the 3rd or 4th version LOL.
Reply: Well, golly. That proves my point about there not being a "common approach." You already have four or more answers and now you are coming to me for the supposedly "right" answer? Okay here's the "right" answer: There is not "one" right answer -- regardless what your ASL teacher or a website tells you to do. The best approach is going to vary depending on circumstance and dozens of other factors. I'll give you an example: If you are sitting in the same room as all your family members and telling your "date" about them you just point at them instead of list-ranking them on your hand.
But hey, since you asked how to sign about your family I'll suggest an approach:
English: I am the youngest of 10, I have 7 sisters, 2 brothers. My mom and dad are deceased, but my stepmom is still living.
ASL: MY MOM DAD TEN CHILDREN. I/ME YOUNGEST. HAVE SEVEN SISTER TWO BROTHER. MOM DAD DEAD. MY DAD SECOND WIFE SHE STILL ALIVE.
Is that the "most" efficient. Meh. People will tell you to get rid of the sign "HAVE" or to use the sign "STEPMOM." Some people may tell you to sign "I/ME BABY." Sure. Go for it.
If you don't know all the signs either look them up, ask that group (only if you can't find them by looking them up), or wait til you get done with the main lessons (Lessons 1 through 60).
Which "Facebook page" or in which Facebook group did you ask the question?
In the future, instead of asking "me" such questions I recommend you ask at:
Then if you don't get enough clear answers there you can tag me from within the thread.
- Dr. Bill
William G. Vicars Ed.D.
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