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American Sign Language: "or"

I generally express the concept of "or" by shifting my body from one side to the other. I call this a bodyshift." You don't go back and forth, you just shift one time while using a facial expression that expresses the concept of "or." 

This "bodyshift" movement is a "nonmanual marker" (it expresses a meaning, but it doesn't require "hands").

Suppose you were asking me, "YOU WANT PIZZA OR HAMBURGER, WHICH?"

Instead of signing one of the versions of "or" shown below, you could instead just use a "bodyshift."  You'd sign, "YOU WANT" in the normal position, then as you signed PIZZA, you'd sort of lean a bit to your right, then when you signed "HAMBURGER" you'd lean a bit to your left.  This is ASL at its finest!  If the person you are signing to is awake, you shouldn't even need to sign "WHICH" at the end of the sentence, but it doesn't hurt to add "which" if you want to convey that the person has to "choose one or the other."


Sample sentence: Do you prefer pizza or burgers?


Another common way to sign "OR" is to sign the letters "O-R." 
"Or" is a short little word, so it is very quick and easy to just spell it.


o.gif (401307 bytes)r.gif (298585 bytes)


Quite a few people use the sign for "then" to mean "or."  It has to do with the idea of presenting choices. Imagine someone saying "this or that" as they first touch their thumb, and then their index finger.

THEN = "or"

There is an initialized version of the sign "then" that means "or." Most adult native Deaf consider the initialized version to be Signed English, and prefer to instead use the sign for "then," bodyshift, or fingerspell "O-R."

This version is "not recommended" if you are taking an ASL test.

OR (initialized version)


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