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Interpretation of ASL is Heavily Influenced by Context:


The existence or lack of context strongly influences signing and/or interpreting choices.  A native signer will often sign the same material much differently in "high context" situations than in "low context" situations.  Any consideration of an ASL interpretation of some other language needs to account for the level of context.

1. "I know nothing about him."*
[Context: A 3rd-person male has recently been introduced to a conversation] 
Sample ASL interpretation: 
IX-[1st-person-pronoun] KNOW-NOTHING IX-[3rd-person-pronoun]. 

2. "Some of them are 15 years old, some are 30, but none is 20."
[Context: A number of things, plants, or people have been identified and introduced to the conversation.]  
Sample ASL interpretation: 
[body-shift-slightly-to-non-dominant-side] SOME OLD-15,  [body-shift-slightly-to-dominant-side] SOME OLD 30, [body-shift-to-center] OLD-20-[rhetorical]? NONE.  

3. "She read this book many times, but never up to the end." 
[Context: A female is either present or has previously been identified in a conversation regarding a previously identified book.] 
Sample ASL interpretation: 
IX-[the/this/it] BOOK SHE START READ depiction-[pick-up-and-open-book]-[set-book-down]+, AGAIN+,  UNDERSTAND-[rhet] NOT-YET READ-cover-to-cover. 

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Notes: 
The letters "IX" generally represent the concept of "indexing" a referent -- as in "pointing your index finger toward a referent." 

The rhetorical form of the sign UNDERSTAND can be used to create the meaning of "but / however / contingent" -- and similar concepts. 

There are ASL signs that take on specific meanings in specific contexts.  The sign for READ-cover-to-cover is based on a depictive sign showing a "reduction in size of something that could be held in the hand." 

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Appendix A:  To view the individual sentences on YouTube:

I know nothing about him. (Sample ASL sentence.)
https://youtu.be/zAGwIO4iyQU
Some of them are 15 years old, some are 30, but none is 20. (Sample ASL Interpretation).
https://youtu.be/p-UeavJg4C4

She read this book many times but never up to the end. (Sample ASL Interpretation.)
https://youtu.be/RWPkFjzkEvk

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Appendix B: The three sentences.
Source: Roman Tarasov, a linguistics student in Moscow, Russia. *

1. "I know nothing about him"
2. "Some of them are 15 years old, some are 30, but none is 20."
3. "She read this book many times, but never up to the end."

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* Reference:
Tarasov, R (2019), "Request for some ASL related help." Personal correspondence, Received: Tue, Oct 22, 2019 12:40 pm. (Note:)

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