The right sign for "break" depends on what you mean.
If you mean "break" as in to physically break something apart then
do a movement that looks as if you are snapping a small stick into
BREAK / "it broke" / "It is broken."
Note: You can use the above sign and then spell "UP" to mean "broke up" as in,
"I broke up with my boyfriend (or girlfriend)."
If you mean "break" as in "summer break" or a "holiday break" then use the
VACATION / "off work" / time off:
If you mean break as in "intermission" or "interlude" use
the IN-BETWEEN sign:
The left hand is in a "loose" four handshape (notice in the example, my pinkie
and ring finger are together--it doesn't matter, that's just how my hand ended
up. The index and middle could be together too).
IN-BETWEEN / insert / in the middle of / intermission:
If you mean break as in PAUSE, then you can use the "PAUSE: sign:
The right index finger reaches down changes to an "X" handshape and lifts up the
left index finger.
PAUSE / hold up / suspend operations:
As time goes on I'm seeing more and more people using the signs "BREAK-(apart)
TIME" to mean, "breaktime."
I also see people signing, "I NEED BREAK" to mean, "I need a break" as in, "I
need to rest."
As a lexicographer and an ASL instructor I have mixed feelings about this.
The ASL instructor in me wants to tell you that such usage is "wrong."
The lexicographer (dictionary maker) in me wants simply to document and report
how signs are actually being used by Deaf (native adult) members of the
Regardless, I do want you to be aware that the "correctness" of the
usage of the sign "BREAK-(apart)" seems to be evolving. As more and more people start using the sign
"BREAK-(apart)" to mean "breaktime" it may become more common, thus more
accepted as "correct."
Society makes this decision. Not ASL teachers. Time
Note: The sign for the breaking, snapping, or exploding of a
thing (such as a bone breaking or fireworks going off) is often
accompanied by a "plosive" (air rushing out such as when you voice
the letter "p") mouth morpheme (a movement of the mouth that conveys
meaning). Such a "plosive" tends to look like you are saying "pah,"
"pow!," "bow!," "puh!" or the first half of the word "Pop!"
ASL is NOT a "one sign" equals "one meaning" language.
Just because the sign "BREAK / broken / to break" typically means:
"to separate or cause to separate into pieces" doesn't mean that it
can't also have other meanings.
It is common to see real
"everyday" Deaf signers using "BREAK/broken/to-break" to also
"interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course)"
"an interruption of continuity or uniformity"
"a pause in work or during an activity or event."
It doesn't matter how many self-appointed experts (or people with
degrees and positions) tell you what a sign "should" do.
What matters is how a sign is really, actually, right now out in the
community being used.
Sure, if you need to sign a
certain way to get a grade from an instructor then sign it that way
until you get the grade you want.
Then go out into the real world and see how real Deaf sign.
You can learn American
Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars