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American Sign Language:  "cartoon"


Judy Staub, a Teacher of the Deaf at East Lyme High School, emailed me to ask:

"What’s the sign for ‘cartoon’?”


Hello Judy,
You could sign "cartoon" in several ways.
An ASL approach would be to spell it on first usage and then sign the word "FUNNY" - thus establishing the sign "FUNNY" as meaning "cartoon" for the rest of that conversation.

But what if you want to talk about how funny a cartoon was?  Some people choose to initialize the sign FUNNY with a "C." I wouldn't use that on an ASL test, but it is out there in the community.

If the "cartoon" is in printed format and it is a single picture, you could sign "PICTURE" to mean cartoon.  Or if it is a cartoon strip, you could use the sign "rectangle" to refer to the cartoon.

Each of those signs "FUNNY, PICTURE, and RECTANGLE" end up functioning somewhat like a pronoun. They are "not" the equivalent, to a full-fledged "noun" but they function as a proxy for a previously identified concept.  So, in ASL you would identify that you are talking about a "cartoon" either by spelling it or by contextual information and then you would use a "proxy" sign to refer back to it.
Sometimes the actual word "cartoon" is simply irrelevant. For example, suppose you started talking to someone about a 90-minue-long cartoon that was being shown in the theater you might spell the title of the movie with your eyebrows up (as if asking, "Do you know the one I'm talking about?") and then your conversation partner might nods that he/she is familiar with the movie to which you are referring. Since he is familiar with the movie that means he already knows it is a cartoon. After which you would simply sign "movie" to refer to the cartoon.
-- Cordially,

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