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ASL: "because"


Tip: Make sure you can recognize the various versions of the older sign for BECAUSE.  See below.

The concept of “because” has several versions currently in use in the Deaf Community. 

Over time it is becoming increasingly common to see the concept of “because” expressed by signing either:
1.  WHY-[rhetorical] Signed by raising the eyebrows. Then answer your own question.

2.  WHY-[statement-form] Signed without raising or lowering the eyebrows and without significant downward movement. Then continue your statement as if you had used the “BECAUSE” sign.

There are those who will tell you that the versions of the sign BECAUSE listed below are not “ASL” signs and that you should instead use a "rhetorical-WHY," a "rhetorical-REASON," or rearrange your sentence.
 
Such a narrow view of the sign BECAUSE ignores the fact that many Deaf ASL signers “do” use one or more versions of the sign glossed (labeled) as “BECAUSE.”

in typical everyday interactions it is fairly common to see the sign BECAUSE on the hands of skilled, Deaf, ASL signers.  If an ASL curriculum in an Interpreter Preparation Program were to "not" teach the versions of sign “BECAUSE” -- that curriculum would be doing a disservice to aspiring interpreters and students who wish to someday become fluent and able to have conversations with native Deaf in "real life" community-based (as opposed to classroom-based) situations.

If nothing else it would be good to at least be able to recognize the versions, even if you do not personally sign them.
 
Some individuals may claim that the reason why you see native Deaf skilled ASL signers using the sign BECAUSE is due to such individuals having somehow been "influenced" (tainted or infected) by "Signed English."  For many years however, the sign BECAUSE wasn’t considered "Signed English" any more than any other ASL sign. The fact that ASL can make excellent use of rhetorical questions doesn't mean that any non-rhetorical question structures are somehow non-ASL.    
 
Even if BECAUSE "was" Signed English -- the fact is if many members of a community start regularly using a word or a sign borrowed from a different language, that word or sign becomes part of the language that borrowed it.  American speakers of English don't run around telling other English speakers to stop using the word "spaghetti" because it is "Italian" and not "true English!" 
 
 It you are a student and are taking an ASL class from a teacher who believes "BECAUSE is not ASL" -- the right thing to do is to sign it the way your instructor wants for the rest of the semester until you get the grade you want -- and then go out into the Deaf World and sign BECAUSE using whichever version the adult, native Deaf signers in your local area do it.
 
 For example, see the 13 minutes and 54 seconds mark of the Daily Moth newscast for 5/1/19. That is just one example. I could, (if I didn't have many, many better things to do) find and provide hundreds (or thousands) of similar examples of the sign BECAUSE appearing in everyday real life Deaf ASL vernacular**.
 
Historically, the sign BECAUSE does not appear to be some English intrusion on American Sign Language.  For many years it was simply "the" ASL sign for because." However, language changes--perceptions change.   What was once regarded as a typical ASL sign can become less and less popular until it drops out of common usage and may even be considered wrong. 

Time will tell.

Reference:
Daily Moth (5/1/19) 13 minute and 54 second mark (13:54) of: https://youtu.be/HZ8H8pfNwLA?t=834
 



Version 1: 
WHY-[rhetorical]

 



Version 2:
WHY-[uninflected] (non-rhetorical)
Note: Do the sign WHY but do it near the head and with a neutral facial expression.

 



Version 3:

BECAUSE-[index > X-version]

 


Version 4:
BECAUSE-[index > A-version]


 


Version 5:
BECAUSE-[slightly-bent-hand > A-Version]


 



 

Notes:
Sometimes people ask me, "How do YOU sign BECAUSE?"

Response:  I use a variety of approaches depending on the context and what I'm attempting to say or ask.  Sometimes I use a rhetorical-WHY. Sometimes I use the version of BECAUSE that changes from an index to an X hand.  Sometimes I use the sign FOR.  Sometimes I use the sign REASON-[rhetorical].

 



 

 




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