MY FAMILY ALL LIKE GO GRANDMA HOUSE. SHE LIVE CITY SMALL. NAME RIVERDALE. HER HOUSE BIG.
BATHROOM HAVE THREE. MY DAD GROW-UP THERE. I THINK HOUSE SWELL. DAD THINK SO-SO.
MY DAD DON'T-LIKE SCHOOL THERE RIVERDALE. WHY? TEACHER THEY BAD. ONE NICE TEACHER.
NAME SMITH. DAD SHE GOOD. THAT SCHOOL NEED MORE GOOD TEACHER.
<<A student writes: Around 0:13 you fingerspell R-I-V-E-R-D-A-L-E then
immediately do something I can't make out. It looks like you make an R with
your hand and move it sideways & down while looking to the side. Is this a
name sign for the city? Later at about 0:37 you make the same
R-gesture to refer to Riverdale. I can't tell if it's some kind of indexing
I haven't come across before, or something else. Is this something I should
expect to see more of as I gradually build up enough skill to converse with
some of my new Deaf friends? >>
ANSWER: Yes, that sign you are seeing with the "R"-handshape is
indeed referring to the city of Riverdale. It is the "name
sign" for Riverdale city. (And quite a few other cities I'm sure.)
While there are many different name signs for various cities -- one of the
more common themes is to trace a "7" in the air using the initial of the
city. Do not assume that applies to any particular city though. Ask
the local Deaf natives what they use. Here in Sacramento we just spell
"SAC." Back in Brigham City we spelled BC (which happens to also mean
"birth control" ...hmmm).
Changing your facial expression; tilting, shaking, or
nodding your head; and hunching your shoulders are all "nonmanual markers."
The term "nonmanual marker" means a signal that you do without using your hands that
influences (marks) the meaning of what you are signing. Think of NMMs
as "signs that you do without using your hands."
American Sign Language has its own unique syntax. You will notice
that it is indeed different from that of English.. In general, the order of our words in a sentence follows a
"TOPIC" "COMMENT" arrangement. This is could also called
"subject" + "predicate" sentence structure. (A
predicate is a word, sign, or phrase that "says something" about the
subject.) For example,
in the English sentence, "Sarah is sleepy." Sarah is the
topic or subject. The comment or predicate consists of "is
sleepy." Since ASL doesn't use "be verbs" the sentence
would be signed as "SARAH SLEEPY" while nodding your head.
You will also see this structure: "TIME" + "TOPIC" +
"WEEK-PAST ME WASH CAR "
or "WEEK-PAST CAR WASH ME "
I personally prefer the first version. Depending on which expert you listen
to, you will hear that one way is better than the other. Anyone who
tells you that ASL can't use a "subject" + "verb" +
"object" sentence structure is simply denying reality. ASL
uses SVO quite often. What it doesn't use is "subject" +
"be-verb" + "object." For example, in ASL you
wouldn't sign the "is" in "HE IS MY BROTHER."
You'd simply sign "HE MY BROTHER" while nodding your head.
Instead of signing "IS" you nodded your head. "IS"
didn't "disappear" it simply took a "non-manual" form.
Which is why we say that ASL doesn't use "be verbs." The
concept of being and existing are still conveyed--but we do it without
"be verbs." Instead we nod our heads, and/or use signs
like "HAVE" and "TRUE."
"I am a teacher," could be signed:
"I TEACHER I"
also, "I am from Utah," could be signed:
"I FROM UTAH I"
"I FROM UTAH"
"FROM UTAH I"
All of the above examples are
You could sign any of those sentences and still be signing ASL. My
philosophy is to do the "correct" version that works for the
greatest number of signers. I've lived in Utah, California, Indiana,
Washington D.C., Texas, and Oregon, plus I've visited quite a few other
places. It has been my experience during my various travels that "I
STUDENT" and "I FROM UTAH" work just fine and are less
confusing than "STUDENT I" and "FROM UTAH I."
The sentence "WHERE FROM YOU?"
is used to ask where you are originally from.
As far as a sentence without "be" verbs,
the English sentence "I am a teacher" would be signed:
"TEACHER ME " or even "ME TEACHER." You drop the
"am" and instead nod your head.
Topic: "directionality" (verb agreement)
Dr. Bill: Suppose I
index BOB on my right and FRED on my left. Then I sign
from near my body to the place where I indexed Bob. That means, "I give to
If I sign GIVE TO starting the movement from the place off to the right and move it to
the left it means Bob gave to Fred. If I sign starting from off to the left and bring the sign GIVE TO toward my body what
Sandy: "Fred give to me?"
Dr. Bill: Right.
[For more info, see:
Sandy: How do you establish tense at that point?
Dr Bill: Tense would be established before signing the rest of the sentence. I would
say, "YESTERDAY ME-GIVE-TO B-0-B" The fingerspelling of BOB would be immediately
after the ME-GIVE-TO and I would spell B-O-B slightly more to the right than normal. That way I
wouldn't need to point to Bob. However there are three or four other acceptable ways to
sign the above sentence. You could establish Bob then indicate that yesterday you gave it to
Lii: Can tense be done at end of sentence, or is that confusing?
Dr Bill: That is confusing--I don't recommend it. I can however give you an example of
"appropriately" using a time sign at the end of a sentence. Suppose I'm talking
with a friend about a problem that occurred yesterday and I sign: TRY FIND-OUT WHAT-HAPPEN
Dr Bill: That sentence talks about a situation that happened before now, but the
current conversation is happening now. Some people might try to put the sign
at the beginning of that sentence, but I wouldn't--it feels awkward.
Lii: How does one go about using ing, s, and ed endings ? Does it need to be done?
Dr Bill: Good question Lii...
Sandy: Similar question - how do we use punctuation--other than emphasis
face? Just pause?
Dr Bill: Again a good question. Okay then, let me go ahead and answer both questions
briefly here, then we'll hear comments from those of you who have them.
Dr Bill: "s" is a pluralization topic. You can pluralize any particular
concept in a number of ways. So far in our lessons we have been using a sweeping motion, (To turn the word
"HE" into the word "THEY"). "ed" is established by using a "tense
marker" like PAST or is understood by
context. For example if I know you are talking about a trip you went on last week, You
don't need to keep signing "PAST," I would understand it was past tense. You could
sign "TRUE GOOD" and I would know you meant the trip went really well.
Dr Bill: Now, punctuation. You are right, you punctuate a sentence via your pauses and
Dr Bill: "ing, ed, and other suffixes are not used in ASL. If I want to change
"learn" into "learning" I simply sign it twice to show it is a process. Many times the
"ing" is implied. For example, "YESTERDAY I RUN" would be interpreted as "Yesterday I went for a
run," or you could interpret it as, "Yesterday I went running." How you interpret it would
depend on the rest of the message (context). If you want to sign dying
as opposed to "die" or "dead" you would do the sign
slower (more drawn out) and not quite "finish" the sign before
moving on to the next sign in your sentence.
Topic: "Politically correct vs. Culturally correct"
Near the end of the twentieth century, the hearing political
community pushed the idea that it was "politically correct" to call Deaf and
hard of hearing people "hearing impaired." So
for quite a while the general public worked hard at using the label
"hearing impaired" as a way of referring to Deaf people.
This label was rejected by Deaf people. The Deaf community (a social and
cultural community) prefer to be called Deaf. The term Deaf is socially and
culturally correct even if certain politicians persist in calling Deaf
people hearing impaired. Political correctness changes over time.
What is politically correct in one community may be incorrect in another
community. Politicians who are "in
the know" now use the term "Deaf." For more
information see my