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American Sign Language: "information"



The sign for "information" is based on the sign for "inform" which in turn is related to the sign for "learn."

To remember the sign for information it helps to think of it as meaning "taking knowledge from your head and dispersing (or handing it out) to the world."


Generally the sign uses two hands.  The handshapes at the beginning of the sign are in "flattened-O" shapes.  The dominant hand is held very close to your forehead (it can touch but usually doesn't). It is "palm back" and the fingertips (and thumb) are pointed at the brain.  The non-dominant hand is held a bit lower and further from the head. It too is palm-back.

You then move both hands forward and off to their respective sides using a sweeping movement and open each hand into palm-up 5-handshapes.. By that I mean your right hand moves forward and off to the right while your left-hand moves forward and off to the left. 

Picture it as you have just reached up to your brain, grabbed some information and flung it out to the public.

Another thing to consider about this sign is that the dominant hand begins in pretty much the same position as the "ending position" it is in for the sign LEARN.  In the sign LEARN the premise is that you are reaching down to grab some information off of your palm and stuff it in your head.  Then for the sign INFORMATION you are reaching up to your head to grab some information and fling it out to those around you.

Another aspect of this sign is that the noun form "information" is differentiated from the verb form "INFORM" by the movement path.  In the sign INFORMATION we use a curved (arching) movement path. (One hand curving off to the right, the other hand curving off to the left.) In the sign INFORM we use a straight movement path that moves toward the person being informed if that person is present. If the person is not present then the sign INFORM still uses a straight movement path but the direction is off toward the dominant side as an "absent referent." Meaning that you are signing INFORM-he/she as if he or she were standing off to that side. But the person to whom you are referring isn't really there. He or she is absent.  You are referring to him or her but he or she is absent hence the term "absent referent."




Shaun Archer asks:
I’ve been confused on how to sign information vs inform for a long time. I’ve seen the hands “blink” twice for information but also the way you sign information.  I thought that’s how you would sign “inform you all.”
How would you sign “inform all of you ?


Hello Shaun!

Here is a good version of "inform all of you"
Thus the difference between the single movement variation of information and the inform-you-all version of information is sometimes very subtle but typically we would do a large, extended movement for inform-you-all (and note the bit of "arc" in the movement).

A problem with various ASL dictionaries is that when you take a sign out of context and cram it into a dictionary the signer / author often tries too hard to create distinctions that don't show up in real world conversation.

Let me give you an example.
Over at if you type in "information" you will see the ASL signer indeed doing it using a double movement to emphasize and distinguish the noun aspect of the sign.
However, if you look at other entries, for example the "contextual information" entry -- you will note that the signer isn't doing the (typically unnecessary) repetition of the information sign. Rather, she is using the "information" sign as a noun but she is only doing a single movement.
Then take a look at how she signs "airline information screen"

Then go watch how native or near-native signers use the sign information in actual real-life situations.
... where at the 49 second mark the person signs "please explore for more information."

Then see this video where the signer signs:
I really look forward to that information. (at the 5:42 mark)

And see this one at the 3 minute mark where the signer signs "they get very limited information"

So, you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to sign like a dictionary entry -- or would I prefer to sign like Deaf people sign in real everyday life when they are signing to other Deaf people?"

That being said, I appreciate your question and as a result of you asking about this topic I'm going to make sure to add that "double movement" version of "information" to my own dictionary (since it is my humble goal to be the most comprehensive and authoritative source out there, heh) but when I do post that sign it will only be as"version" with a note to the effect of: "you may also see this version from time to time."
- Dr. Bill

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