In a message dated 2/10/2006 7:32:25 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Hey Dr. Bill,
I got the book Linguistics Of American Sign Language 4th
edition. I don't know whether you have it or not. Very good and
interesting. A few things, though. This book mentions that the
sign for girl is repetitive. Where did they get that from? I
couldn't find that in my dictionary or on your website. Also, I
think i remember reading that you said lexicalized
fingerspelling and loans signs were the same. This book reads
like they are different and that both are part of ASL. Third, it
was interesting finding out that you can't have a subject after
the verb. Like "silly boy". I noticed some changes on your
website. How often is your website CD updated? Learning a lot.
You will find that many Deaf people sign "GIRL" with a single
I've noticed that same thing with the sign "BOY." Some people do
the sign "BOY" with a double movement, some do a single
When "GIRL" is signed as part of a compound like "GIRL-FRIEND"
you should certainly use a single movement.
So, add these two principles to your list:
1. There is a great deal of variation out there in the "real
2. American Sign Language, like all living languages, is
What I said regarding lexicalized signs and loan signs was:
<<"Lexicalized" fingerspelled words used to be called "loan
signs." Some people still call lexicalized fingerspelled words
"loan signs" but the term "loan sign" more accurately applies to
signs that were "borrowed" from other signed languages and
became part of ASL.>>
Allow me to clarify: In the "old days" many ASL instructors
(including me) referred to lexicalized fingerspelled words as
"loan signs." Then, later we stopped calling such signs
(#EARLY, #BANK, #WHAT, #BACK, #BURN, etc.) loan signs and
started calling them lexicalized fingerspelling. Now we use the
term "loan signs" to describe signs like the new versions of:
JAPAN, CHINA, SPAIN, MEXICO, etc. which were "borrowed" from the
signed languages of those countries.
Regarding the statement "you can't have a subject after the
verb" -- hate to break it to you my friend, "silly" isn't a
verb, it is an adjective. But I know what you are referring
to--the principle that you shouldn't use physiological and/or
emotional descriptions prior to nouns e.g. "silly boy," "sick
dog." I'd again like to point out principle number 2 above: ASL
is constantly evolving, but in general that principle holds
For many years people used to say "ain't" wasn't a word and that
it wasn't in the (English) dictionary. Well actually, they said,
"Ain't ain't a word and it ain't in the dictionary." Heh. But,
guess what? It is now. (Dictionary.com)
I think you will find the same is happening with ASL. Forms and
usages that may not have been common 10 years ago are working
their way into mainstream acceptance. When will "new phrases"
(or grammar styles) be considered "acceptable?" Accepted by who?
A high school kid may almost instantly accept a new sign. Heck,
he probably made it up in the first place. But it will be
years before the new sign finds its way into an ASL dictionary,
What constitutes "proper" ASL depends on either group consensus,
or the person who is giving the grade.
If you find yourself in a new group or taking a class taught by
a peculiar teacher, you need to adjust your concept of "the
right way to sign" to match your new circumstances.