The sign for dinosaur uses a flattened "O" handshape to show a dinosaur walking past. The arm bounces up and down a bit (as if taking steps) as it travels in front of you.
[Special thanks to ASL Model: Christopher Palaia, Native ASL Deaf Signer / Deaf Interpreter / Advanced ASL instructor]
Just as some dinosaurs evolved and others died out -- some signs evolve and others die out.
Over time ASL has been evolving away from overlaps with "Signed English." One such evolution is discontinuing the use of unnecessary "initialization" of signs. An "initialized" sign uses the initial letter of an English word as the handshape of a sign.
For example, when I grew up (not quite in the dinosaur time period) it was common to initialize the sign for dinosaur with a "D" handshape. Below is an example of an older sign for "dinosaur" which uses a "D" hand (or a flattened "O"-hand) to show a dinosaur walking past. The arm bounces up and down a bit (as if taking steps) as it travels in front of you from one side toward the other while using a facial expression that conveys something big, heavy, and ominous walking by.
A common comment in the second decade of the 2K millennium hurled at (some) older initialized signs is "That's Signed English!" However, let me share this bit of insight with you. Thirty years ago (mid-1980's as of this writing) the initialized version of the sign for "dinosaur" wasn't Signed English -- it was just how most of us Deaf people signed it. Now, decades later the movement in the Deaf Community away from initialization has caused many signs to shift from being considered "typical everyday ASL" to instead being considered "Signed English." That is why it is nice to be able to update an ASL dictionary "online" as the language evolves. - Dr. Bill
Notes:In a message dated 2/22/2005 12:49:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time, kputski@_______ writes:Dr. Bill,I have seen two variations on the sign for dinosaur that are different from the one you use. One has the dominant hand's elbow resting on the down-facing, non-dominant hand. The dominant hand has the fingers on the thumb like a closed, flattened "c" formation, but the "head" sways from side to side.The other variation that I saw was where the dominant hand makes a "d" shape, then bounces several times across the top of the head front to back like making "spikes" on the head. Are these widely-accepted variations, or more regional variations?
[Reply from Dr. Bill, updated
Dr. Bill,Thanks for the information. When I would use that to tell children's stories, could that first dinosaur sign be used as (for lack of a better description) a classifier...for making the dinosaur look around, etc.?
Yes, exactly! It could (and should).
-- Dr. Bill
Remember: Your local teacher is "right" for the duration of his/her class. Get the grade you want then go out in the Deaf world and see how signing is done in the real world. Also remember, the (so called) "right" sign in one location may not be common in a different region. That is why I say: "Learning to sign without interacting with Deaf people is like trying to learn how to swim without getting in the water."
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