Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a question regarding the word "can" plus shaking of the head
"no" to say cannot or can't vs. the sign for can't (point finger of
right hand coming down on point finger of other hand). Are both
excepted? Or is one better than the other? Or am I even wrong to think
you can sign the word can't/cannot by signing the sign for "can" and
shaking the head no (left to right)?
- Ram Levinger
To me, signing CAN-(negative-head-shake) feels "very" awkward and at
best might be used to mean "not able." Even for "not able" I would tend
to use the actual NOT sign prior to signing CAN. Example: "HE/SHE NOT
CAN WALK" = "He isn't able to WALK." I wouldn't recommend that though.
Instead I'd just suggest signing "HE/SHE CAN'T WALK." Then if the other
person said, "HE/SHE LAZY!" at that point I might sign, "NO! HE/SHE NOT
CAN WALK! HIS/HER LEG BROKE!"
However the generally accepted sign for "can not" or "can't" is the
CAN'T sign (dominant hand index finger striking the tip of the
non-dominant hand index finger). The generally accepted sign for
"not-possible" is the IMPOSSIBLE sign (dominant "Y"-hand striking the
non-dominant hand palm twice).
- Dr. Bill
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