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American Sign Language: "Classifier Y" (CL:Y)

The "Y" handshape is often used to represent things that are very wide.  It is also used to represent things that typically have a handle and/or are typically poured.

The mouth of a hippopotamus

A fat person walking
Liquid being poured, especially gravy or syrup.
A pitcher being held and/or poured

Alcohol being swigged

The sign for hippopotamus is a lexicalized classifier.
It is a regular sign that obviously got its start by people using "Y" hands to show the opening of a very big mouth.

But suppose you wanted to show a hippo "yawning?"
You could use a yawning facial expression and "Y" hands and to show the mouth movement of the hippo:



You can use a palm down "Y" handshape to show the waddle of an obese person.  While moving the hand forward, twist the sign so that thumb and pinkie alternate pointing downward:



An interesting sign that is related to CL:Y is a version of the sign "how-TALL?" This sign uses two vertical "Y" hands (thumbs touch twice) along with a furrowed brow ("WH"-type question expression).

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

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