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Note: The sign "AM" is not ASL in the sense that we do not use "state of being verbs" in ASL.

Now that I've said that "AM" isn't used as a "be verb" in ASL, you might wonder why I would show it to you at all?

Suppose you are teaching a linguistics or interpreting class and you want to talk about the English word "am" in order to explain how it would be interpreted.  How would you sign it?  The easy answer would be to simply "fingerspell" the letters "A-M."  

There is a "signed English" sign for the word "am."
This sign could be used when talking about the English word "am" --  that is different from using "am" as a state of being verb.

Let me give an example.  Suppose a teacher is using ASL to teach an English class to a group of Deaf children who also know and use ASL.  The teacher wants her pupils to know about and be able to use "state of being verbs" when they are reading and writing English.  So she signs to them: 

"ENGLISH (bodyshift) ASL DIFFERENT. HUH/WHAT DIFFERENT? GRAMMAR!  MEAN GRAMMAR? SENTENCE, WORD PUT, PUT, PUT (placing words in an imaginary sentence that is hovering in front of the teacher as she signs this).  (Left G-hand shows a word at the front of the sentence, right G hand shows a string of words after the first word.) Facial expression, "surprise/concern."  Left G-hand reaches into sentence and pulls out a small word and holds it up for examination.  Right hand signs "FUNNY, STRANGE, huh/WHAT IT (points at the word being held by the left hand,) (answers own question, "BE VERB!")  

At which point she goes on to talk about BE verbs.  At no point in time will she sign anything other than ASL during the conversation but she will indeed make use of the signs that represent the English words "is, am, are, be, ..." and so forth -- but only because she is talking about the words. She is using them as "nouns" to name the English concepts. She is not using those signs as ASL be verbs. The equivalent to this would be a teacher explaining a foreign language and occasionally modeling a foreign word.

For example an English as a second language instructor may sign,  "TODAY I EXPLAIN ENGLISH WORD QUOTE AM QUOTE."
Meaning:  "Today I am going to explain the word 'am' to you."

Along these same lines, consider "fingerspelling."  Fingerspelling is ASL even though it is used  to represent English letters.

So anyway, I'm going to show you the "English" sign for AM.
This sign is not ASL and if you are striving to sign in ASL you should not use this sign outside of an English classroom or similar situation to talk about the concept.

It is an "A" handshape that starts out touching the chin then moves forward three inches or so.

Remember, in ASL we do NOT use "AM" in sentences like "I am going to the store."  Instead you would sign "I GO STORE" and nod your head affirmatively.

American Sign Language University ASL resources by Dr. William Vicars
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