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10 Things You Should Know About American Sign Language

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1 10 Things You Should Know About American Sign Language
Dr. Nanci A. Scheetz, CSC Professor, VSU Dr. Susan Easterbrooks Professor, GSU

2 1. American Sign Language (ASL) is Not English on the Hands
ASL is a complex language used within and among members of the Deaf community. It is “a complete natural language, quite independent from English” (Lane, Hoffmeister, & Bahan, 1996).

3 2. ASL Is A Visuo-Spatial Language
Signed messages are produced in the signing space. ASL is based on visual perception and visual conveyance of ideas, information and feeling concepts In essence, space provides the backdrop for the expression of the language.

4 ASL is a Visuo-Spatial Language Continued
Space is used to… Convey noun/verb relationships Identify nouns and pronouns Refer to individuals who are not present Illustrate time sequences Reflect spatial relationships Express distance between locations Compare and contrast who what when where

5 3. American Sign Language has Grammatical Features
Some of these features include: Use of Space Indicating Tense Temporal Aspect Prepositions/Locatives Classifiers Topic/Comment Conditional Sentences where when where who what why how

6 ASL Grammatical Features Continued
Negation “WH” Questions “Yes”/”No” Questions Directional Verbs Listing Rhetorical Questions

7 4. English Word Endings Are Not Used to Depict Tense in ASL
English word endings such as: “ing” as in Walking “ed” as in Walked “s” or “es” as in Walks are not part of ASL

8 Indicating Tense in ASL
In American Sign Language… Time is generally indicated at the beginning of a sentence Tense indicators such as now or today can be signed at the beginning to designate the tense Yesterday, recently, before and long ago are frequently signed to indicate past tense Future tense can be indicated by signing future, will, tomorrow, or later

9 Indicating Tense in ASL Continued
English establishes tense with verb inflections such as “ed”, “ing”, etc. and time adverbials may occur at the beginning or end of a sentence Once tense is established in ASL it is not necessary to repeat it in every sentence When a change in tense occurs within a narrative a new tense indicator appears alerting the listener to the time frame.

10 Prepositions in English Locatives in ASL
English prepositions may pose a challenge to deaf individuals because they are frequently represented in ASL through the use of locatives. When prepositions are signed in English the English preposition is represented; however when the preposition is not represented in ASL the meaning may be vague.

11 Prepositions/Locatives Continued
When signing sentences in ASL such as: “I am going to the store” the word “to” is incorporated into the sign for GO-TO “Put the plate in the cupboard” the word “in” would be incorporated into the sign for PLATE and the location would be designated by sign movement and location in space.

12 6. Adjectives in English and ASL
English and ASL are both rich with adjectives. However, each language represents them differently. Adjectives in ASL may be placed before or after the noun. After the noun they create a pattern that is contrary to English structure. When describing a tall man with red curly hair in ASL you could sign either: MAN TALL HAIR RED CURLY or TALL MAN RED CURLY HAIR

13 Classifiers Used as Adjectives
Classifiers can be used as size and shape specifiers (SASS) In these instances they can be used to describe the visual characteristics of an object or a person. Once an object is identified it can be described using a classifier

14 Classifiers Representing Size and Shape
Several classifiers that are used to show size and shape. Two of them are: CL:F (“F” handshape) is used to show a small round object such as a coin, piece of candy, a spot on an animal, etc. CL:B (“B” handshape) is used to show a large pile, a big stomach, a handful of something

15 7. Negation There are several ways to form negative sentences in ASL.
Non-manual markers: produced in isolation Negative headshake Eyebrows squeezed together Non-manual markers: combined with signs No Never Not none

16 Negation Continued No is used in response to a Yes/No Question
None can be used to indicate zero quantity and can be signed before or after the verb Not and never occur either before the verb or at the end of the sentence thus producing a negative consequence

17 8. The Verb “To Be” ASL shows the verb “to be” in a variety of ways:
Incorporating it into the verb phrase “I am going to work” Including it as part of a reference for a noun or pronoun as in the sentence: “She is over there” or Including it as part of a descriptive adjective as in: “He is tall” English sign systems have signs for is, are, was, were, am, and be. However, these are not signed in ASL.

18 9.The Role of Fingerspelling in American Sign Language
Fingerspelling is a manual representation of the language that is spoken. In ASL it is used to represent: Proper names Titles Addresses Words that there are no signs for

19 Fingerspelling Continued
Fingerspelling is a process of spelling out English words where there is no sign equivalent in ASL. The fingerspelled alphabet corresponds to the English alphabet When fingerspelling the signer produces the handshapes in a rapid sequence, pausing slightly between words (Easterbrooks & Baker, 2002).

20 The American Manual Alphabet

21 10. ASL Does Not Use A Written Format
ASL is produced visually with signs simultaneously communicating information and other grammatical information. Signed messages are produced in the signing space. Unlike spoken language that follow a linear order, sound by sound, word by word, and can be represented in a written format, ASL is produced visually.

22 ASL Does Not Use A Written Format Continued
As a result, information that students comprehend visually/conceptually may become challenging if sign to print connections are not made. When teachers/interpreters provide students with the sign to print link the opportunity for reading comprehension to occur is enhanced.

23 10 Things to Remember ASL is Not English on the hands
ASL is a visuo-spatial language ASL has grammatical features English word endings are not used to depict tense in ASL Prepositions in ASL are shown in locatives

24 10 Things to Remember Continued
Adjectives in ASL may be placed before or after the noun There are several ways for form negative sentences in ASL The verb “to be” is signed differently in ASL and is not represented by English signs Fingerspelling plays a role in ASL ASL does not use a written format

25 References Easterbrooks, S. & Baker, S. (2002). Language learning in children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Scheetz, N. (2001). Orientation to deafness. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon Scheetz, N. (2005). Forming connections: understanding the difference between ASL and Contact Signing. Unpublished document Scheetz, N. (in press) Building American Sign Language Skills. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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