The sign for "from"
starts with the dominant hand in a "1" handshape (as an index finger),
changes into an "x." The base hand: Starts and STAYS as an index finger. Pull the
dominant hand back away from the non-dominant hand as if pulling back a
string on a bow.
Note: The "X" handshape!
FROM WHERE YOU? (Where are you from?)
Here is another version:
WHERE FROM YOU? (Where are you from?)
Quite often the sign "WHERE" is dropped during this question. We
simply use a furrowed brow combined with the signs "FROM YOU" to equal "Where
are you from?"
Here we see "FROM" as part of the phrase "Where are you from? (Note the
OPTIONAL DISCUSSION / no need to
read beyond this...
Dear Dr. Bill,
I am presently taking an ASL class (this time at a Community College with
Gallaudet professors, reason why going there, for them as teachers!) and am
having some problems with the WAY they are teaching this course. I've taken
private lessons from a Gallaudet alumni who teaches in small groups, is a
storyteller, signs BEAUTIFULLY (OMG!), and in 2002 was taking this SAME
EXACT course (at the same college, but with a VERY different book - and
teacher)...anyway...in one of your lessons you state that it is okay to
sign, "WHERE FROM YOU?"
I have always been taught that in ASL the English question:" Where are you
from?" would be translated into ASL as:
"You from where you?" as opposed to "Where from you?"
I can deal with the new signs and different meanings for the same sign, but
I'm getting so confused due to learning from so many different people, all
whom seem to have different ideas of how to TEACH sign, all are Native ASL
users, and they are also using different ways of forming "sentence"
structure, which is the MOST confusing to me.
-- Name on file
In general in ASL we do tend to put "wh" type signs (who, what, when, where,
why, & how) at the end of question sentences.
To understand why we do this it helps to realize that it feels strange
and/or uncomfortable to hold a WH facial expression (furrowed eyebrows) for
the duration of a medium length or longer sentence (four signs or more).
So we tend to move the WH question to the end.
The facial expressions we use in ASL to form questions are the equivalent of
how Hearing people raise the tone of their voice.
Here is the thing to understand though, when Hearing people ask very short
questions, they raise the tone of their voice throughout the whole question.
They do this because the meaning of this very short utterance is actually
made more clear by using the raised tone of voice throughout the whole
sentence (since the duration is so short). Try it yourself. Say "Are you
GOING?" and only emphasize the last word. Then say it again and emphasize
all three words, "ARE YOU GOING?"
You will probably think that it feels "weird" to try to say "Are you"
(normal voice) and then switch over to "GOING?" (high tone) for just the
last word. It feels "better" to just say all three words in high tone since
the sentence is so short. It is more smooth and less jarring to use one tone
for a short sentence than to try to cram two different tones into a three
The same thing applies to real life signed conversations-short 3-sign
questions tend to use the WH question at the beginning of the sentence since
it becomes more smooth and "economical" to form one facial expression for a
three-sign sentence using a non-topicalized sentence structure than it is to
form two different facial expressions for a 3-sign sentence using a
topicalized sentence structure.
Many ASL teachers (even the really "good ones" that teach at prestigious
universities) and who sign "really well" have pre-conceived notions and/or
biases that prevent them from wrapping their minds around this principle.
p.s. Now, how do advanced signers "REALLY" ask where someone is from? They
don't even use the word "WHERE." HA!
They just sign "FROM YOU?" while
using furrowed eyebrows! The "where" concept is expressed by the furrowed
eyebrows and thus doesn't need a separate sign.
In a message dated 3/31/2003 1:18:58 AM Central Standard Time, Scott writes:
I met a fellow church member who interprets for another church nearby
when he isn't attending services at my church. We just had a few brief
minutes to converse before he had to return to ushering duties. He's the first
person that can sign that I've really approached. He was very pleasant and
encouraging, but he immediately corrected me on some of my signs. His sign for the word "from" was different than the
one demonstrated in all of my sources. Instead of holding the left
index finger up and pulling at the tip with the right index finger, he
instead pointed the left index finger pointing to the right, and lightly
touched it with the right index finger and pulled it away. It threw me
until he explained it as the word "from". Have you seen this used in
Texas? (BTW, I lived in Abilene for 10 years. Directed the
Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band while there.) Thanks for any insight you can provide. Cheers! Scott
Regarding the sign "FROM." This is one of
those signs where books and ASL teachers tend to show one thing and real
language users do something else. See the forward slash on your
keyboard that looks like this: / Your left (or
non-dominant) forearm and index finger are at about that angle. Neither
vertical or horizontal but somewhere in between. Again note that
it is much more physically comfortable to have it at an angle. I'd
have it more up than sideways though. But the more relaxed, casual, and
faster you do the sign "FROM" the more the non-dominant hand tends to become
horizontal. -- Dr. Bill
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