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American Sign Language: "who"

The sign for "who" as several variations.
 

A good general variation is to place the tip of your thumb on your chin with your index finger extended. Bend your index finger twice. 

Notice, some people do this sign without touching the chin.  They hold an "X" handshape in front of their chin/mouth and wiggle the index finger up and down (quickly changing it from an fully bent X to a partially bent X a couple times).  Personally I prefer the "touch chin with thumb" variation, but I wouldn't consider it wrong if someone used the "non-contact" version. Also, you will see people who do the movement from the large knuckle instead of the small and middle knuckles -- that is okay too.

WHO (Version 1) 


Memory aid: Imagine that the reason your finger is fluttering is because of the the air that flows from your mouth when you say "who." 

 


 

Here is an old sign for WHO.  (Not recommended).
This version isn't used by many people any more. It is made by putting your right index finger in front of your lips. Move your finger in a circular motion as if tracing an "O" around your mouth:
 

 




 
Optional (NOT required) reading:
 
In a message dated 1/18/2008 9:41:03 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, wsisneros@ writes:

I was checking signs on your website so I could refresh my memory and look up new signs. I wanted to look up "Who" because I have seen a different sign used, and I thought it was just a variant. I was unaware that the sign I was using for "Who" was an old version. It was the one I learned when I was a little girl and have been using ever since. No one has ever told me any different. Why is it not recommended to use it? I'm just curious.

Wendi Sisneros


Hi Wendi,
I recommend to my students that they use whatever sign is most prevalent in their region.
It has been my observation that the "straight index finger drawing a circle in front of the lips" version of "WHO" is being used less and less throughout the Deaf Community as a whole.  There isn't anything "wrong" with that sign, it is just becoming "outdated." Sort of like wearing clothing from an earlier time period.  Personally, I think of it as a "cool" old sign with a great history. I was teaching the newer sign the other day and one of my students (in his fifties) showed me the "circle" version of WHO.  There happened to be another Deaf person in the room and I asked her what she thought about that sign. She replied "That is an English sign."  To which I cocked an eyebrow to challenge her a bit.  She backed up a bit and admitted that she really didn't know if it was Signed English or just an older ASL sign but that the typical ASL sign was the one done by bending and unbending the index finger of the "L" hand with the thumb-tip touching the chin.  (She is about 25 years old.) 
-- Dr. Bill

 



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