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American Sign Language: "apply"

The sign for "apply" has three popular variations:

The first version of apply is a very general sign that has many interpretations depending on the rest of your sentence:

"run for" as in "run for office"
"I'm willing"
"shirt" (use a double motion in context)



Sample sentence: "How many jobs have you applied for?" = JOB YOU APPLY BEFORE, HOW MANY?





Another popular sign for "apply" brings a "V" hand down over a "1" hand.  (In the old days offices used to use a small sharp "post" sticking up in an "in box" upon which people would stick their papers. The post kept the papers in place and in order.)
This version of the sign can be used to mean such things as:

"apply to"
"file" as in "file a complaint"
"applicable" as in  "that is not applicable" or "that doesn't apply in this situation"






In a message dated 2/27/2013 3:26:34 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, deafartist writes:
Dear Dr Bill
... I have been using your site for 12 years off and on after my sudden deafness. While trying to learn from other Deaf and interpreter students I often get into arguments. lol
So today a sign student asked me what the sign sign APPLY meant. (V on Index-1) As an example that I signed " I Drs appointment have, interpreter booked finished."
I had learned this sign from an interpreter a while back for "apply" or "book an appointment". Am I right or wrong or wrong?
The argument was appointment means times hold so I should sign "Drs appointment, interpreters appointment finished".
I get so frustrated learning ASL from interpreters and other Deaf -- it is making me crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am hoping for a reply. Love your site and love your explanations.

Hello :)
What type of art do you do?
I'd love to see it.
To me, the (V on Index) version of APPLY generally is used for concepts such as: "applied it to," "apply to" "it applies to" "my application was," "I applied for," "that doesn't apply in this situation," "file for," "file a" and similar usages.
The sign "appointment / reservation" can generally be paired well with the sign ESTABLISH as in "set up an appointment."
Also, a person could indeed sign: "I GO DOCTOR, I RESERVE INTERPRETER FINISH."
Or you could even sign, "MY DOCTOR APPOINTMENT? (brows up)  I/ME FINISH RESERVE INTERPRETER (head nod)."
There are those who will say you should put the FINISH at the end of that second sentence, but really, in this context it could go either before or after the "reserve interpreter" clause.
You asked me if you are right or wrong. Ha! I suggest you avoid playing the "right or wrong" game with yourself or others. You are both right and wrong constantly when learning and using a language. You are right when you hang out with those who agree with you and you are wrong when you hang out with those who disagree with you. If you look far enough or long enough you are likely to find "someone" to agree with or disagree with you on anything. So the trick instead is to look for general signing trends (of native Deaf signers) and try to stay toward the middle of those trends as they evolve. Yes, "evolve." What was (so called) "right" (common) 10 years ago may not be right now. Rather than trying to categorize signing as right and wrong what we might enjoy more is asking: What is common? What is generally observable? What does the person standing next to me use? What do the Deaf in my area use? What do I need to sign in order to get an "A" in this class? (Heh.)
Dr. V



An ASL Hero writes:

I teach ASL in _____ Texas.  We are working on occupation signs in ASL 2 here.  The sign for APPLY… there are two and I am wondering if there is a time you use one over the other or what the difference is.

First sign is like VOLUNTEER… the other is non-dominant hand as a 1 and the dominant as a V where it goes over the 1 handshape.  If you have time, would you mind letting me know what, if any, the difference in use is between the two signs? Thank you so much in advance for any help you can give. 

[Name removed to protect privacy.]


Dear _______,

Just following up on your question regarding the versions of the sign for "apply":



My main comment is that: language evolves. 

A noted expert, Jolanta Lapiak, (whom I respect greatly) comments in her website's APPLY-to entry that the "APPLY-to" sign (the V-hand and Index finger version) shouldn't be used to mean "applying for a job."  However -- she notes that "many" VRS interpreters are using it to refer to a job application.

Thus we have a situation of:

Prescriptive instruction: "Do it this way because it has always been done this way and I'm telling you to do it this way"


Descriptive instruction:  "Do it this way because many people in the community are doing it this way and it is thecommunity that decides what signs mean -- not "history" nor "experts."


For the record, I personally think that "semantic shift" has occurred and the range of meanings of APPLY-to does indeed now include "submitting or having submitted an application to a potential employer, agency, or program"  We see this usage often in the Deaf Community by Deaf individuals when discussing having applied for a job or for some sort of program.  This usage isn't limited to just VRS interpreters -- it is widespread.  

Thus ASL instructors are going to need to decide whether to hedge against this semantic shift or to "embrace" this "real life" usage by numerous members of the Community. 

(Again, I highly respect Jolanta and her work. She is terrific!  The above comments have to do with prescriptive and descriptive approaches -- not any individual teacher or expert.)


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