American Sign Language: "how"
In a message dated 7/16/2003 1:23:17 AM Central Daylight Time, wsmather@____.net writes:
I can't find a good explanation for when it's appropriate to sign "how" twice. Rhetorical questions only? But I've seen it done in other situations not rhetorical.
Any help appreciated.
Let's adjust your description a bit. We are not signing "HOW" twice but rather sometimes we sometimes do a double movement of one of the hands in the sign for HOW.
The use of the sign HOW varies quite a bit from user to user, but it seems to me that the "double twist of one hand" version shows up more when you are "seriously" requesting information and expecting a reply. It shows up in "one word" type of replies. The "double twist of one hand" version also tends to show up more at the end of sentences (since you have more time and don't need to "roll" into the next sign and you can use it to be very clear that you are expecting an answer).
The "both hands roll forward once" version and the "single twist of one hand" version tend to show up earlier in the sentence in statements like "How are you?"
When compounds are made in ASL, internal movement or the repetition of movement is eliminated. Thus the single movement version of HOW will be preferred in circumstances where the concept of "how" is an integrated part of another concept:
For example: How are you? (The way this is signed varies, but commonly both hands roll forward and the dominant hand smoothly transitions into the sign YOU. Another common way is for only the dominant hand to roll forward and change into the sign YOU.)
The "double movement of one hand" version of HOW is used for serious one-word questions:
Example of a one word question:
Signer A: ME PASS CLASS!
Signer B: HOW?!? (double movement of the dominant hand)
Signer A: PAY TEACHER
As far as rhetorical questions, I see both the "double hand roll forward once" version as well as the "single hand movement"-(with typically a single roll).
Example of a rhetorical:
Signer A: She passed her class! How? Paid the teacher.
Signer B: Oh I see.
But really, it is going to vary a lot in the "real world" with real people. Make sure to do the sign in the manner your local teacher wants it. Then go out into the Deaf Community and get a feel for the way in which your local Deaf use it.
All material copyright © 1996 by Dr. William Vicars