Noun/Verb pairs are signs that use the same handshape, location, and orientation, but
have a different movement. The verb of a noun verb pair generally has a
single, continuous movement that is larger than the movement of the
noun. The motion of a noun of a noun verb pair is generally a double
movement that is smaller than that of a verb.
Verbs (of noun/verb pairs) use a
Nouns (of noun/verb pairs) use a double movement.
A good example of a noun verb pair is the "CHAIR/SIT."
If I do this motion once, it means sit.
If I do the movement twice, it means CHAIR.
But sometimes if I'm in a hurry I'll only do the movement once and my
friends still understand me. Why? Because of context. The rest of the
sentence makes the meaning clear for me.
For more on this topic, see: "Compounds"
My question is in regard to double motions for signs. I read on your site
that for a sign that can serve as both a noun and a verb, usually a double
motion represents the noun and a single motion represents the verb. I also
read that a double motion can be used to represent an ongoing action (like
So for a noun/verb sign like sit/chair and others, is it only context that
will give the distinction between “chair” and “sitting” if the signer makes
a double motion?
Thanks for all your hard work.
A few thoughts:
If a sign is generally considered a (noun/verb)-pair sign – that means
people in the Deaf community “conventionally” use a double movement to
indicate a noun and a single movement to indicate a verb for THAT sign.
Thus it is “convention” (not “context”) that determines whether or not the
double motion of a (noun/verb)-pair is a noun.
I can sign “CHAIR” totally out of context and other Deaf will understand
what I mean.
I can sign “SIT” totally out of context and other Deaf will usually assume
correctly what I mean.
I can sign SIT in the context of other signs such as “MY SIT GONE!”
(My chair is gone!) and other Deaf will generally infer that I actually
meant a noun.
It is good to remember that the (noun/verb)-pair “rule” only
applies to (noun/verb)-pairs. I know that seems like an “obvious” statement
but my point is that (noun/verb)-pair rules don’t apply to non-(noun/verb)-pairs.
Suppose a verb doesn’t have a noun to which it is paired? You have a verb
for which a double movement doesn’t create a noun. For example, the verb
“drop.” (In this instance I’m discussing the activity of dropping something
and I’m not talking about a “small unit of liquid.”) Signing “DROP” twice
doesn’t create a noun. Signing DROP twice creates a process. (I kept
dropping it.) If I want to create a noun out of “drop” I can precede the
sign DROP with the adjective “THAT.” For example, if a student recently
dropped a course and I want to inform the student it was “that drop” which
caused him/her to become ineligible for a scholarship.
- Dr. Bill