In a message dated 8/7/2012 8:08:46 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Recently a friend
and I have been getting together once a week to go through a lesson
together. We just finished lesson 11 and will be buying your dvd
soon so we can continue past 15! Tonight, for the first time, we
decided to spend 15 minutes after we finished the lesson talking to
each other exclusively using ASL. We're trying to get ready to go to
an ASL student meetup to get some practice using what we've been
learning in a conversational environment, but neither of us feel
completely ready, so we're starting just with the two of us. To help
us out, we left the browser window open to lifeprint.com and when we
found that we kept fingerspelling a word and wanted to know how to
sign it instead, my friend would sign "look" to me, and I would look
it up on your ASL dictionary. We didn't know how to sign "look up"
though and even a little googling hasn't really answered it for us.
What is the appropriate way to sign "look that up?" Would you use
the word for "search" (c handshape making two circles by the eyes)?
In context, him just using the "look-at" sign got the meaning
across, but we were both curious how you would suggest signing "look
up" as in look up in a dictionary or on the internet. Thank you
again for all your instruction!
The danger of asking an expert for advice on how to sign something
is that he or she might actually tell you. (Heh.)
Why is that dangerous?
Because you might believe him or her when he or she says "The sign
for 'look-up' is ... _____."
I like the fact that you have pointed out how "in context" your
friend can sign "look" and the both of you know exactly what he
means: "Look-up that recently fingerspelled word." The sign
"LOOK-at" requires context. It is a "transitive" verb, (memory aid:
it needs to transfer it's action to "something"). You are both
sitting there with a computer screen open and ready. Then he signs
"LOOK-at" directionally toward the computer screen. With that much
context going for you I would imagine that a glance and a head-jerk
in the direction of the computer screen would serve just as well.
The challenge faced by signers is that the less context you have,
the more specific your signing needs to become.
The inverse is also true: The more context you have, the fewer signs
So, the "right way" to sign something often depends on how much
context you have. If you and your signing partner(s) have a lot of
shared context you would be wasting your partner's time if you use
more signs than needed to convey your message. Thus your signs might
be "correct" but your overall language use would be inappropriate to
Okay, so, let's move forward on the premise that the concept of
"look-up" has several situation-specific meanings that can be
expressed via a variety of signs,
I recommend the following:
SEARCH / seek / look-for / look-up
FIND / pick-up / "found it" / looked it up /
CHECK / check into / verify / make sure of / look-up / investigate
PAGE / turn-pages / look-up in a book /
TYPING / data-entry / use-keyboard
Those signs tend to use corresponding facial expressions and head
Also see: LOOK
You can learn
American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars