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Objects in specified locations: a house or building on a street, a statue or vase on a table, a lamp on a desk.
§ Smooth, flat surfaces: road or runway; wall, hallway, ceiling, floor, shelf
§ Flat mobile surfaces: surfboard, skateboard, snowboard, people mover (moving sidewalk)
Inanimate objects in specified locations:
Inanimate objects in specified positions:
§ Height and width: a person's height, the width of a box, a stack of books
§ Delineating 3 dimensional objects: house, box
§ A non-motorized riding device: horse, bicycle
Curved objects: bowl, sink, basin or a digging device
§ Smooth, flat surfaces: a long stretch of desert or road
§ Describing a object with sharp corners: the top of an area, such as a shelf or refrigerator
§ Long cylindrical objects: pipe, canal, tunnels
§ Short cylindrical objects: cup, glass, bottle
§ Thick cylindrical shapes: tree trunk, biceps
§ Thickness or depth of an object: a book, pizza, blanket, stack of papers, snow fall
§ Clusters of objects in specified location: a group of students in the back room, a cluster of flowers
§ Sections: location of a room in a house, sections of a city, an article or column in a newspaper
§ Large objects in a specified location: a house out in the middle of nowhere, a camper on the back of a truck
§ Medium, round, flat objects: cookie, badge, small cap (yarmulke), a large dial
§ Small spherical objects: clown nose, bulging eyes
§ Large spherical objects (two hands): ball
§ Teeth: commonly used for baring teeth
§ Small round flat objects: a disc, gold nugget, piece of food, moon
§ Height and/or width of small objects (similar to CL: G): a small bottle of perfume, a short pencil, a long screw or nail
§ Large pinchers: parrot beak
§ Small, thin, round objects: button, coin, polka dots, pepperoni, pepper shaker
§ Long, thin, cylindrical shaped objects: stick, dowel, curtain rod, small roll of paper, water hose, faucet
§ Eye gaze: a person looking up or down, eyes moving back and forth, a person rolling his eyes
§ Person moving along: hiking, walking, wandering around
§ Short or shallow depths: thin layer of ice, shallow water, a small stack of papers
§ Flat and thin with squared edges: picture frame, ruler, strip of paper
§ Thin shapes (in general): mustache, sideburns, collar
§ Small Pinchers: beak of a small bird, tweezers
H (or "U")
§ A variation of CL: V: legs together, standing on a sidewalk, a person on a surfboard
§ Thin flat objects: boards, bacon, noodles, name tag or badge, label, band aid
§ Lathering device: spreading butter or frosting, a dog licking a person's face
Fastening small objects to something else (using a clasping movement): badge, earrings, hair barrette, paper clip
§ Very thin and long objects: string, yard, wire, thread, cherry stem
§ Defining boundaries: line, line that one does not cross
§ Animals with two horns: bull, ox, cow
§ Pronged items: goal posts, pitch fork, forklift, and the start of a gun (at the beginning of a race)
§ Objects with sharp borders for roofs and loose sides: tent, canopy, circus, castle
§ Type of airplane: with slight finger modifications, airplane can become a supersonic jet (CL: RY), a space ship (CL: XY)
§ Movement: landing, take off, skidding on a runway, crashing in midair
§ Thin squared objects: placemat, driver's license, greeting card
§ Thin squared objects in a specified location and or position: pictures on a wall, mirror, a window frame
§ Objects with a short barrel: drill, welding device, gun (pistol), laser
§ Circular or oval shaped objects: (similar to CL-C-modified, but larger) dish, rug, platter
§ Thin round surface: lake, round table, paint spill, round mirror, puddle of water
§ Spraying device (with index wiggle): window cleaner, water gun
§ Thick medium sized, cylindrical objects: rod, tree branch, pipe, large cable, firehouse, salt shaker
§ Viewing devices: goggles, telescope, binoculars
§ Small squat objects (with rounded end): very fast race car
§ Objects that are round at the bottom and a slight opening at the top: tulips, closed flower bud
§ Animals with long necks: giraffe, llama, goose, swan, dinosaur, cobra
§ Thick Claws: (slight modification of CL:O-flat>CL:5) lobster, crab
§ Braided or twisted material: rope, cable, braids, curled strands (hair or ribbon)
§ Short, round, somewhat thick with narrowed tips: cigars
§ Solid, spherical objects: head (of a person or animal); head bobbing, head retreating (into shell)
§ Ramming device: pistons of a car engine, fist (or anything solid that can be jammed in or packed in tight) Cranking handle: window crank, old fashion ice cream machine
§ Long thin round hand-held objects: spear, large stirring spoon, rake handle
§ People (or rather legs of people): laying down, standing up, legs together, kicking
§ Two long thing things, parallel to one another: train tracks
§ Two pronged device: fork, forklift
§ Groups of 2: 2 people walking together or standing
§ Scissoring object: scissors, claws of a crab or lobster
§ Seated (person or animal: crouching, squatting, hunched down, perched
§ Bending knees: climbing stairs or mountains, jumping, sitting
§ Arrangement of chairs: chairs in a semi-circle; circle or semi circle; multiple rows
§ Thin pulling object: bow string, pulling wire (to signal the bus to stop)
§ Sliding device: sled, roller skates
§ Raking device: parallel scratch marks or paint streaks
§ Sets of teeth: chattering teeth
§ Head of an animal with floppy ears: rabbit
§ Two pronged teeth: most commonly, snake, vampire, squirrel or chipmunk
§ Long objects with a connective ending: bones, joints
§ A person or animal that is crouched or hunched over (using a modified version of CL: 1): a person who skulks, slinks, shrinks or slouches.
§ A scratching or digging device: scratch or scar, a digging or chipping apparatus (such a pick ax or mining tool)
§ Anything with a hook: boat anchor, door latch, fishing hook, talons, tow, bat (animal), beaked nose
§ Long curved sliding device: ice skates, skis
§ Small objects commonly held between fingers: key or winding device
§ Small bulbous objects: onion, garlic
§ Wide or long objects: hippopotamus' mouth, long word, high heels (stilettos)
§ Objects with handles: beer mug, pitcher, and in some instances, suitcase, luggage, or briefcase
§ Long curved object: cow horn, smoking pipe, telephone
§ Spanning the width or breadth of an object: ruler
§ Long, skinny objects: most commonly, a singular person
§ Small cylindrical objects: sticks, pencils
§ Delineating 2 dimensional objects: poster board, plot of land, circle, diamond (any shape)
§ Trajectory paths and or connections: one way street, two way street, intersection, ball flying midair, a snake moving across a surface, tears
§ Animals that crawl: (modification CL:1>CL:X) caterpillar, snail
§ Motorized vehicles: car, tractor, helicopter, bus, motorcycle
§ Vehicle related events: parking a car, driving erratically, parallel parking, garage, car accident
§ Groups of 3: 3 people crossing the road
§ Feet: duck feet, hiking, walking, position of feet as a person walks
§ Liquid spray over large surfaces: spray painting a car or house
§ (upright) sails on a boat
§ Small objects gripped by the index, thumb and middle finger: computer mouse, baseball, bowling ball
§ Large beak: commonly used to represent birds of prey, eagle, falcon (if placed in front of mouth)
§ Hands: (modification of CL:5-claw) particularly for scaling or climbing large object, wall, boulder
§ Hands that are stashing: stocking shelves, investing in stocks
§ Containers held by index and thumb, requiring ejection of contents (using thumb): needle, vaccinations
§ Parallel lines: stripes, bars, fence, upright boundaries
§ Objects that leak: bleeding, drool, running water, draining (ear, sink, pipes)
§ Objects that flow: curtains, hair, streamers
§ Group of 4: 4 people standing or walking together
§ Traffic: (using a modified 4 or 5 handshape) traffic jam, multi-lane freeways
§ Stiff and straight: hairs or fur that stand on end, Mohawk
§ Objects that are extremely porous: filters, screen, wind, breeze
§ Group of 5: 5 people standing or walking together
§ Large flat object: a serving platter, flat lid
§ Flowing porous objects (using a modified 5) CL:5 > CL:O or CL:O > CL: 5: headlights, flashing lights, sunlight, shower
§ Objects that have projectile movements: vomit, diarrhea, flash flood, copious tears
§ Delineate height or movement of water: ocean, flood, rising water, waterfall
§ Traffic: (using a modified 4 or 5 handshape) traffic jam, multi-lane freeways
§ Upright objects viewed while traveling very fast: commonly used to describe blurred scenery while driving very fast.
· Scads of (too many to count): stars in the sky, freckles, audience or crowd, basket full of clothes, gobs of money
· Objects that are rough, jagged: rake, the plowing device on a large tractor
· Objects that are withered or curled up: withered tree
· Representing groups of people sitting together: carpool
· Hands: (modification of CL:5-claw) particularly for scaling or climbing large object, wall, boulder
Need to add:
DrVicars: What is a classifier? What do you think Art?
Art: I think you caught me not doing today's homework.
DrVicars: Heh, sorry, for putting you on the spot.
Heather: It's the form of the fingers or hands to indicate a type of sign. Such as... if you want to sign a cup or a plate, you form either a small circle with the hands, or you form a larger circle with the hands.
Tigie: Like long narrow things and round flat things?
Daniel: Signs that represent classes of objects such as land or water vehicles as a group.
DrVicars: Those are some great answers, I think we are getting there. :) Now give me another example... [time passes] ...Anyone feel free...
Sandy: Like using the index finger to show long skinny things?
DrVicars: Good, right. Let me explain it a bit more for you. If I want to show a person (we will call him "Fred") walking and I have established him on my right I can take my right index finger and move it to the left to represent "Fred" walking across the room (or wherever). The index finger is (in this instance) being used as a classifier. I can also inflect the sign in various ways (speed, distance, movement path, non-manual markers, etc). If I add a non-manual marker such as a facial expression it influences the meaning of my classifier. For example, If I do the CL:1-"walk across the room" sign with a smile It means Fred is happily walking across the room. If I do it quickly It means Fred is hustling etc. [Changing how you do a sign is what you would call "inflecting" the sign for meaning.]
Sandy: What I didn't understand in looking at this was - isn't it overly broad? Is it really understood?
DrVicars: Think of classifiers as a type of pronoun.
You have to identify your pronoun before you can use it. Also you have to use it in context. I cant just start a conversation with you by signing, "HE WALK." I have to set up some sort of situation or context, then I spell F-R-E-D, and then point to the right then form the INDEX-finger-classifier (or "Classifier 1" also shown as CL:1) and move it to the left.
Tigie: How do you know that classifier "F" isn't part of a fingerspelled or initialized word instead of representing a small round thing?
DrVicars: Great question. The answer is context. It is the same way you know the letter O and the number 0 are different. It depends where they show up.
DrVicars: I don't expect you all to be experts at classifiers, just
want you to know they exist.
An example on that "F" concept: If I sign "I BUY NEW SHIRT" then I touch an F on my chest and throw it off suddenly it could mean: "and the button popped off." The "F" classifier acquired the meaning of "button" because of the context (I was talking about "shirts" and placement on my chest).
Tigie: Would everyone understand that a button popped off and not for instance a bottle cap?
DrVicars: Remember this concept: "Show, don't tell." It is much faster to
create an imaginary person or object then show what happens to it or
him--than to describe every item in the situation. In the case of the bottle
cap I would have had to indicate a bottle of some kind before using an f
classifier. The only possible meaning for the classifier in the shirt
example would be a button, because that was the context. People
normally don't wear a row of bottle-caps down the front of their shirts.
Sandy: So, classifiers are used later on in the "sentence,"--it makes more sense now.
Heather: Why would you use the "F" sign to show a button popped off? Wouldn't you use a "B?"
DrVicars: Because the shape of the fingerspelled letter "F" has a round hole representing the shape of a button. Remember ASL is not linking to English it is linking to a concept.
Heather: Thanks, that makes perfect sense.
Classifiers vs. Signs:
All classifiers are signs but not all signs are classifiers.
A "handshape" and a "classifier handshape" are two different things (even though they may look the same. For example, the handshape "A" is used in the sign "YOURSELF." But that isn't an example of a classifier. The "A" handshape in YOURSELF doesn't represent a certain size, shape, usage, or movement of "you." It doesn't "classify" you as being tall, short, fat, thin, or any other category. Thus when asked for an example of a "Classifier: A" if a student responds with the sign "YOURSELF" that answer is wrong. Another example is The ILY handshape when used to mean "I love you." The ILY handshape is not a classifier when it is used to mean "I love you." In that circumstance the ILY handshape is just a regular "sign." Remember, to be a classifier you have to classify something. When you sign "I love you" you are not classifying the person receiving your affection as being of a certain size, shape, usage, or any other general category. However, if you take that same ILY handshape and zoom it through the air as a representation of the specific movement path of an airplane then the ILY handshape does indeed become a "classifier." However the sign AIRPLANE is just a sign until you modify it to indicate something specific about an airplane. If you just hold up an ILY handshape (angled slightly downward) and move it forward an inch, back and inch and forward an inch (using two small movements) you have not done a classifier – you have simply signed AIRPLANE. Suppose though at that point you twist your ILY handshape upside down and do a loop in the air with that handshape? Pah! You have changed the sign AIRPLANE into the CL-ILY: "airplane turn upside down and do a loop." It is not until you use the ILY handshape to specify some type or category of movement that the sign AIRPLANE becomes the classifier "airplane turn upside down and do a loop." Consider this bit of English language use: "There was an airplane. It flew upside down and did a loop." The first sentence names our topic. The second sentence uses the word "it" as a pronoun to refer back to the topic and then adds information describing what the airplane did. In the English sentence the word "airplane" is not a pronoun. It is a noun. In an ASL sentence just because you sign AIRPLANE doesn't make it a classifier. The sign "AIRPLANE" is "just" a noun." Later if we "add information" to the "AIRPLANE" sign (by changing the movement path or orientation) then it becomes a classifier referring back to the airplane and showing how the airplane moved.
The general sign "ESTABLISH" is not a classifier. For example, when used
in the sentence, "I/ME ESTABLISH NEW BUSINESS" the sign ESTABLISH is not
a classifier. Just because "ESTABLISH" uses an "A" handshape doesn't mean it
is a "Classifier-A." Using the ESTABLISH sign in the phrase "Establish a
business" isn't representing a "class" of business types. The "A" is just a
general handshape that has long since become disassociated from any specific
type, function, location, shape, or size of business.
However, if after you have named a referent (such as a house, building, statue, vace, lamp), you then do the "ESTABLISH" sign in a "certain location" in order to specify where your referent is located you are at that point using the sign ESTABLISH as a classifier meaning "The [referent] is here at this location."
- Dr. Bill
Classifiers are signs that are used to represent general categories or "classes" of things. They can be used to describe the size and shape of an object (or person). They can be used to represent the object itself, or the way the object moves or relates to other objects (or people). Another definition is: "A set of handshapes that represent classes of things that share similar characteristics."
Below are some examples of "types" of classifiers. I don't expect you to get
a handle on these just because I list them, but I thought you would enjoy
seeing a sample the diversity of classifiers out there (there are many more
than I'm indicating here). This list is from a study guide I hand out to my
students at the college during certain semesters when I teach from the
Vista, Signing Naturally curriculum ( Lentz, Mikos, & Smith,
• Descriptive Classifiers (DCL), are also known as size and shape specifiers, (SASSes). They describe a person or object.
DCL:B (or bent B) "extremely tall" [Explanation: to represent the descriptive classifier "extremely tall" you hold the "bent 'B' hand" high in the air while using an appropriate facial expression."]
DCL:4 "long hair"
DCL:1 "bulletin board"
DCL:1 "black board"
DCL:4 (claw) "freckles"
DCL:4 (claw) "curley hair"
• Semantic Classifiers, represent categories of nouns. For example, people or vehicles.
SCL:1 (person) "walking fast"
SCL:1 (person) "person walks to...____"
SCL:3 (car) "drives to____"
SCL:Y (fat person) "waddling"
SCL:flattened-O (fast-car) "cruising"
SCL:bent-V (row of chairs)
• Locative Classifiers, show placement or spatial information about an object. Sometimes indicate movement.
LCL:C/LCL:B "place cup on napkin"
LCL:5 "leaf floating to the ground"
LCL:1 (sticks) "one here-one here"
LCL:B "shelf" (over to the right)
(2h)LCL:L "adjust a picture"
• Plural classifiers
Indicating a specific number or a non-specific number.
PCL:2 "two people walking"
PCL:4 "long line of people"
PCL:4 "people moving in line"
PCL: 5 "hordes of _____." Often called "scads of."
PCL:V "people seated in a circle"
• Instrument Classifiers, you use your hands (or an other part of your body) to manipulate an "object."
ICL "hammer in a nail"
ICL "play checkers"
ICL "play chess"
ICL "light match"
ICL (broom) ICL "sweep"
ICL (water) ICL"pour in"
ICL (garbage) ICL "dump out"
ICL (wash-clothes) ICL "hang up"
• Body Classifiers/Mime
You use your body to "act out" or "role play." Sometimes this is like "mime." Other times you just show the action (or interaction) that is going on. Often this involves "role shifting."
"give hug to child"
"running hard/pumping arms"
"wave to crowd"
"listen for strange noise"
• Bodypart classifiers
A specific part of your body is doing an action.
(2h)BPCL:F "look at"
BPCL "kick back" (relax)
BPCL "cross legs"
BPCL ""tap foot"
BPCL "use gesture looking up"
BPCL:flat-C "big grin"
BPCL:L "red face" shy
BPCL:B "mouth frowning"
Lentz, Mikos, & Smith, 1988). Note: I've modified the list here and there and added some of my own information.
Student: I don't
get what it means in the outline where it says: SCL:1 (person) "walking
DrVicars: Oh okay then... let me clarify that.
The SCL simply identifies the general category.
The ":" means what a normal colon means.
The "1" represents making a "one" handshape with you index finger.
The ( ) tells you what it is representing--you have to pre-identify this in your sentence or conversation.
The manner or how it was done is in the "quotes"
So if I wanted to show "Bob" walking fast, I would fingerspell his name, then hold up that finger and move it quickly across my signing space. That would be a classifier indicating how he is moving.
I have a question for you, can you give me a definition for "Classifier Predicates"?
(Valli & Lucas, 2000)
Classifier: 1 or index finger CL:1
Classifier: 3 CL:3
Classifier: B and Classifier; BB
Classifier: H,R, and 4
Classifier: Inverted V and bent inverted V
Classifiers: Size, Location, Movement
Lentz, E. M., Mikos, K., Smith, C., & Dawn Sign Press. (1988).
Signing naturally teacher's curriculum guide. San Diego, CA: DawnSign
Lentz, E. M., Mikos, K., Smith, C., & Dawn Sign Press. (1988). Signing naturally teacher's curriculum guide. San Diego, CA: DawnSign Press.
Valli, C. & Lucas, C. (2000).
Linguistics of American Sign
ed.). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Valli, C. & Lucas, C. (2000).
Linguistics of American Sign
ed.). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
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