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ASL: "because"


Tip: Make sure you can recognize the various versions of the older sign for BECAUSE.  See below.

The concept of "because" has several versions currently in use in the Deaf Community. 

Over time it is becoming increasingly common to see the concept of "because" expressed by signing either:

1.  WHY-[rhetorical] done by raising the eyebrows while signing WHY. Then answer your own question.

2.  WHY-[statement-form] done by signing WHY without raising or lowering the eyebrows and without significant downward movement. Then continue your statement as if you had used the "BECAUSE" sign.  (This approach basically uses the sign WHY to replace the sign BECAUSE.

There are those who will tell you that the versions of the sign BECAUSE listed below are not "ASL" signs and that you should instead use a "rhetorical-WHY," a "rhetorical-REASON," or rearrange your sentence.
 
Such a narrow view of the sign BECAUSE ignores the fact that many Deaf ASL signers "do" use one or more versions of the sign glossed (labeled) as "BECAUSE."

In typical everyday interactions it is not uncommon to see the sign BECAUSE used by skilled Deaf signers.  If an ASL curriculum in an Interpreter Preparation Program were to "not" teach the sign "BECAUSE" -- that curriculum would be doing a disservice to aspiring interpreters and students who wish to someday become fluent and able to have conversations with native Deaf in "real life" community-based (as opposed to classroom-based) situations.

For example, see the 13 minutes and 54 seconds mark of the Daily Moth newscast for 5/1/19*. That is just one example. I could, (if I didn't have many, many better things to do) find and provide hundreds (or thousands) of similar examples of the sign BECAUSE appearing in everyday real life Deaf ASL signing.

If nothing else it would be good to at least be able to recognize the versions of BECAUSE, even if you personally choose not sign BECAUSE.
 
Some individuals may claim that the reason why you see native Deaf skilled ASL signers using the sign BECAUSE is due to such individuals having somehow been "influenced" (tainted or infected) by "Signed English." 

That is a false narrative (as in revisionist history).  It seems plausible except for the fact that for many years the sign BECAUSE wasn't considered "Signed English" any more than any other ASL sign. Just because ASL can and does make excellent use of rhetorical questions doesn't mean that any non-rhetorical question structures are somehow less ASL.    
 
Even if BECAUSE "was" Signed English (and I'm not saying it is or was) -- the fact is that if many members of a community start regularly using a word or a sign borrowed from a different language, that word or sign becomes part of the language that borrowed it.  For example, American speakers of English don't run around telling other English speakers to stop using the word "spaghetti" because it is "Italian" and not "true English!" 
 
If you are a student and are taking an ASL class from a teacher who believes "BECAUSE is not ASL" -- the prudent (safe) thing to do is to sign however your instructor wants for the rest of the semester -- until you get the grade you want -- and then go out into the Deaf World and sign BECAUSE using whichever version or approach that the adult, native Deaf signers in your local area do it.
 
Historically, the sign BECAUSE does not appear to be some English intrusion on American Sign Language.  For many years it was simply "the" ASL sign for because." However, language changes--perceptions change.   What was once regarded as a typical ASL sign can become less and less popular until it drops out of common usage and may even be considered wrong. 

Time will tell.

Reference:
Daily Moth (5/1/19) 13 minute and 54 second mark (13:54) of: https://youtu.be/HZ8H8pfNwLA?t=834
 



Version 1: 
WHY-[rhetorical]

 



Version 2:
WHY-[uninflected] (non-rhetorical)
Note: Do the sign WHY but do it near the head and with a neutral facial expression.

 



Version 3:

BECAUSE-[index > X-version]

 


Version 4:
BECAUSE-[index > A-version]


 


Version 5:
BECAUSE-[slightly-bent-hand > A-Version]


 



 

Notes:
Sometimes people ask me, "How do you sign BECAUSE?"

Response:  I use a variety of approaches depending on the context and what I'm attempting to say or ask.  Sometimes I use a rhetorical-WHY. Sometimes I use the version of BECAUSE that changes from an index to an X hand.  Sometimes I use the sign FOR.  Sometimes I use the sign REASON-[rhetorical].

 



Question:
When you ask a rhetorical "why" or answer someone else's question -- should you use the sign "BECAUSE" or do you just skip signing it and let the concept be implied?

Answer:
In general you should just skip signing "because" as part of rhetorical questions (since the concept of "because" is implied). 

Over-use of "because" is typically perceived by viewers as indicating a signer is not familiar with the type of signing done by skilled signers.

This isn't to say that we never sign "BECAUSE." We do. We just do it sparingly and only when it significantly contributes to creating the specific message we wish to convey.

 




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