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ASL: Lesson 2:

Lesson Objectives:

___ I use and am able to recognize the yes/no question facial expression
___ I use and am able to recognize the wh question facial expression
___ I am able to recognize and produce each letter of the fingerspelled alphabet
___ I am able to use indexing to sign personal pronouns
___ I am able to name several (3 or more) methods of pluralizing concepts
___ I am able to show possession  and I know the sign:  HAVE.  
___ I can show who did what to whom by using   directionality   
___ I am able to recognize and use head-nod for affirmation
___ I am able to recognize and use head-shake for negation
___ I am able to recognize and sign numbers 6-10
___ I am able to recognize and use the agent / person   sign.
___ I understand the basics of asking for clarification of a sign
___ I am able to recognize and sign the vocabulary for this lesson
___ I am able to recognize and sign the practice sentences and story for this lesson. (See below).
___ I have taken the Lesson 2 Practice Quiz
___ I have taken the general practice quiz for this lesson.  See: PRACTICE QUIZZES



BOY-[male, man]

CHILD-[read the child page to see: CHILDREN]
GIRL-[woman, lady]
HOW-MANY-[also see variation: MANY]
LIVE-[life, address]
MARRIAGE-[husband, wife, marry, married, spouse]
SINGLE-[alone, someone, JUST, ONLY, SOMETHING]
Possession: [his/her/its, my, our, their, yours]

Also see: man / woman
Review:  SLOW-[L01]

Practice Sheet: 2.A
01.  HEY, YOU what-NAME?  ("Hey, what's your name?")
02.  MARRIED are-YOU?  ("Are you married?")
03.  CHILDREN YOU?  ("Do you have children?")
04.  SISTER YOU how-MANY?  ("How-many sisters do you have?")(Also see: 2)
05.  YOUR MOM what-NAME?  ("What is your mom's name?")

Practice Sheet: 2.B
06.  YOUR DAD DEAF?  ("Is your dad deaf?")
07.  YOU WORK WHERE?  ("Where do you work?")
08.  YOU LIVE WHERE?  ("Where do you live?")
09.  THIS HIS/HERS/theirs?   [point at any object] (Is this his?)
10.  W-E?  how-SIGN? ("How do you sign the word 'we'?")

Practice Sheet: 2.C
11.   YOU NAME B-O-B, YOU?   ("Is your name Bob?")
12.   YOU DIVORCED YOU?   ("Are you divorced?")
13.   BROTHER YOU HOW-MANY?   (How many brothers do you have?)
14.   YOU HAVE SISTER?  ("Do you have a sister?")
15.   YOUR DAD NAME, SPELL SLOW.  ("Spell your dad's name slowly.")

Practice Sheet: 2.D
16.   You-MEET MY BROTHER YOU?  ("Have you met my brother? / Did you meet my brother?")
17.   YOUR WIFE what-NAME?  ("What is your wife's name?")
18.   YOUR SISTER SINGLE?   ("Is your sister single?")
19.   YOUR GRANDMA what-NAME?  ("What is your grandma's name?")
20.   T-H-E-Y how-SIGN?  ("How do you sign 'they'?")

Students often ask me, "Why do Deaf people sometimes repeat the sign YOU at the end of certain sentences?" For the answer to that, see the "ARE" page.

Just as there are a variety of ways to ask such questions in English, there are a variety of ways to ask questions in ASL.  Below are some variations and samples of signing you might see.
Variations and other examples:
"How-many brothers do you have?"
"How are you?"
"Where is your class?"
"Hey, what is the sign for 'we'?" [Hey, sign we?]
"Hey, what is the sign for 'we'?" [Hey, "we?"]
"Is your brother single?"
"Are you single?"
"Hey, what is the sign for 'they'?" [HEY, THEY SIGN?]

Story 2.A

I B-I-L-L V-I-C-A-R-S [first and last name].  [Name sign]
[Left hand hold up a four handshape, palm back, arm held at a comfortable angle, keep it there. Sweep the tip of the right index finger along the tips of the first three fingers of the left hand. ]
[Touch the tip of the pinkie finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]
DEAF [nod, and touch the pinkie finger again, then,]
[Touch the tip of the index finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand, then touch the tip of the ring finger of the left hand.]
GIRL, [Touch the tip of the middle finger and then the pinkie]
[Touch the tip of the index finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]
L-O-G-A-N (normally you'd indicate the age here, but we'll learn that in a later lesson)
[Touch the tip of the left, middle finger.]
[Touch the tip of the ring finger.]
[Touch the tip of the pinkie finger.]

Story 2.B

[Hold up your left hand in a   four   handshape, palm facing back, arm held at a comfortable angle, keep it there.]
[Touch the tip of the index finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]
[Touch the tip of the middle finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]
[Touch the tip of the ring finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]
[Touch the tip of the pinkie finger of the left   four   hand with the pad of the right index finger of the right   one   hand.]

[Cultural note:  Often during introductions you will see even more information:  Ages of children, name signs, last names, which residential school was attended, which college program (Gallaudet?) was attended, and so forth.]

Author's note:  While the above stories  may be loosely based on my own family, they are just made up stories.  I do have four terrific kids but as of this writing they are all still quite young.]

Notes and discussion:

Facial Grammar is important:  You need to use facial grammar.

Too many beginner ASL students have stone faces.

When asking a question that has a yes or no answer you should raise your eyebrows.

When asking a question that involves who, what, when, where, why, or how -- you should lower your eyebrows.

There are exceptions to the two rules above. Some exceptions include rhetorical questions and certain greetings. For example "HOW YOU?" as a friendly greeting should be eyebrows up -- but "HOW YOU?" as a concerned question should be eyebrows down.

But in general you should be following those two rules when you sign:
Yes / no question = brows up.
Wh-type question = brows down.

Head nodding, head shaking, and no be-verbs: 

When signing a sentence in ASL you don't use state of being verbs,   (is, am, was, were, are, be, being, been...). 
For example: "I am happy" is signed, "I HAPPY" while nodding my head and smiling. 
If I wanted to sign   I'm not happy,   I'd sign   I HAPPY   while shaking my head negatively and frowning a bit or pursing my lips. 

To affirm that a thing or state exists in ASL you nod your head.
When negating the existence of a state or thing in ASL you shake your head.

ASL tends to use a  "subject   +   predicate"  type of structure. ("Predicate" is just a fancy word that means "say something about.") You might call that a   topic   +   comment   sentence structure.  Some people say that ASL doesn't use a  "Subject-Verb-Object" (SVO)  sentence structure.  Hogwash. ASL uses a variety of sentence types and does indeed make use of SVO sentence structure (in addition to other structures). For example:  I GO STORE  uses a subject-verb-object structure.  So, remember ASL uses many different sentence structures (just like all other real languages).  For more information on this topic check out the grammar entry in the Lifeprint Library.  If you have time, read "The myth of STORE, I GO" article.

Don't let the gloss fool you, ("gloss" is what you call it when you write one language in another language). Just because I didn't type the words "am" and "to" doesn't mean that the function of  "am" and  "to"  aren't being taken care of.  The function of these words is to indicate affirmation or existence.  The function of  the word "am" in a sentence such as "I am going to the store" is replaced in ASL by a slight nod of the head; and "to" is incorporated in the movement and direction of the sign for GO.  The sign GO actually means, "go to."    There is much more to ASL than can be easily typed onto a flat screen.

Let's get really clear on this--if someone asks you,  "Does ASL use 'be' verbs?" --  you should answer "No."   If I ask you on a quiz in this curriculum, "Does ASL have 'be' verbs?" -- you should answer "No." 

YOU and YOUR are two different signs, but often due to the structure of the sentence or the context of the conversation it won't matter which sign you use (either YOU or YOUR).

For example: YOU NAME WHAT? Can be interpreted as "What is your name?" because it is the equivalent of: "You are named what?"  In other sentences though you may want to firmly establish possession, -- use YOUR in those situations.

For example: In most casual situations it is fine to sign "YOU NAME B-O-B?" -- which means basically the same thing as, "Is your name Bob?

QUESTION - A student asks:

<< So, the sign "MOM," -- could I use it to get my mom's attention? Or would the sign MOM just be used to describe "This is my mom" or "She is my mom,"?

Doing the sign "MOM" would NOT be a good way to get your mom's attention in a signing environment.  "Hearing people" (people who can hear) can say or call out the word "mom" to get the attention of their mom. When you want your Deaf mom's attention you would use one of several "attention getting techniques" depending on how close you are to her, whether she is looking at you, and whether other people are around. One of the most common techniques to get attention is the WAVE-("get attention of") sign. Which I tend to refer to as the "HEY!" sign.
Waving your hand, tapping lightly on the shoulder, lightly slapping the table at which someone is sitting, and--in some circumstances-- stomping your foot on the ground (using only as much force as needed), or flashing the lights, are all common ways to get the attention of someone in the signing environment. Discretion should be used, (especially with stomping or light flashing) because not all ways are appropriate at all times and there are right ways to do it. For more information on this topic, see:    Attention Getting
Snapping your fingers should NOT be used to attempt to get someone's attention in a signing environment.
--Dr. Bill

QUESTION - A student asks:

<< Dear Dr. Bill,
My name is Jonathan and im trying to learn ASL from your website. I understand that when you sign you do it in a kind of broken English, but is it ok to sign using proper English?  Example being: BROTHER HOW-MANY YOU? Could it be signed HOW-MANY BROTHER YOU? And still be ok or is that improper ASL?
- Johnathon >>

Most books and instructors promote the idea that you should put "WH"-type questions at the end of a sentence. ("WH"-type questions generally involve one of these concepts: "who, what, when, where, why, how, how-much.") In general it is good advice and you should follow it. However, in making decisions about grammar sometimes it helps to understand why we do what we do.
The reason for typically putting "who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much" signs at the end of a sentence is because "WH"-type questions use a furrowed brow. Putting a "WH"-type sign at the end of a question saves you from having to furrow your brow throughout the whole sentence.
This is important when signing longer sentences.
But what if the sentence is very short (about 3 signs or fewer)?
My own research and observations lead me to believe that for short "WH"-type questions you can put the "WH"-sign at either the beginning or the end of the sentence.  I encourage you though to stick with putting "WH"-type signs at the end of your question even if your sentence is short because doing so will help you form good habits that will benefit you when you sign longer sentences. (It will also help you pass an ASL class if you take the class from a teacher who is inflexible regarding the rightward movement of WH-type signs).

Allow me to be clear:
ASL is not "broken English."  ASL is not English on the hands.  ASL evolved from a combination of sources including a significant influence from France as well as the signing done by indigenous Americans and other sources (such as the signing that was done in a place called Martha's Vineyard, etc.).  

You would not say that a "video recording" is a "broken English sentence." Both an "English sentence" and a "video clip" convey information - but a video clip is often much more powerful than a "written sentence." ASL is actually more powerful than English in terms of efficiency.  Effective use of space, location, movement, palm orientation, and facial expressions allow signers to simultaneously convey information that would often take much longer to convey in English "word by word."  When you try to "write" ASL -- it looks broken -- but ASL is a full, rich, and living language.
Dr. Bill

QUESTION -- A student asks:
"I've got a question about "wh- questions." If I put the "WH-" sign 1st and then sign the sentence like I would say it in English, do you think it'd make sense to Deaf people?"

Most of us (Deaf people in America) are to some extent bilingual and thus most of us will understand you just fine if you sign either "WHO YOUR TEACHER? or if you sign: YOUR TEACHER, WHO?"  On shorter sentences it really isn't an issue. However, the longer the sentence, the more of an issue it becomes because we use facial expressions to indicate what type of question we are asking. Squinting (lowering/furrowing) your eyebrows for a short sentence is no big deal -- but squinting your eyebrows for a long sentence feels weird.  As a Hearing person (people who live in the Hearing world) you raise your voice at the end of a sentence to indicate that your sentence is a question. Deaf people raise or lower our eyebrows at the end of a sentence to indicate we are asking a question.  So, it is good to practice putting the "WH-" signs at the end of your sentences even though they are short so as to develop good habits.

Lesson 2:

You do not need to read the following information. It is helpful but not required:

Another variation on Story 2:


I J-a-c-k J-o-n-e-s.
I Hearing
HAVE One BROTHER, M-I-K-E (insert real name if you want)

Hi Dr. Bill,
I am really enjoying your online sign language course. I have a question. How would you sign a story about a family and show them having 6 children, 2 boys and 4 girls the oldest a boy, the next a girl then a boy the rest girls. What I am getting at is how can you sign 6 children do you use two hands to show this? I know in lesson 2 you used one hand to show 4 children (yours) please explain. Thank you.
--Wendy Feldman

You can still just use the non-dominant hand to index a sixth child. On children 1 through 5 you tapped or touched the tip of the thumb, then the tip of the index finger, then the tip of the middle, then the tip of the ring, then the tip of the pinkie. When you got to the sixth child you would change the left hand into a "six."   As you know, the SIX sign handshape brings the thumb and pinkie tips together. For the sixth child (if you are right handed) you would use the right index fingertip to touch or tap the combined tips of the left thumb and pinkie to indicate that you are referencing a sixth child.
This is not a hard and fast system. But that is a good way to approach it.
- Dr. Bill

Question -- a student asks:

Dr. Bill,
In your lessons you have the two sentences   Are you married?   and   Are you deaf? 
They seem to have the same sentence structure, but you've listed the ASL translation as   "YOU MARRIED?"   and   "DEAF YOU?" 
I don't understand why they wouldn't either both start with YOU or both end in YOU.  Thanks.

Dear Steve,
Imagine a man and a woman sitting next to each other in a bar.  (Or maybe in a church if you prefer and/or depending on what day it is.)  The man decides that the woman is really cool and he'd like to ask her on a date. But first he leans over and asks, "You married?"
To his relief she replies, "No, I'm not."
She then leans toward him and asks, "Are you married?"
To her relief he replies, "No."
They start dating, get married, and have a wonderful life. End of story.

But hold on, let's take a look at those English sentences:
He didn't use the word "are" in his sentence, but she did.
He didn't use the words "I'm not" in his sentence but she did.
She used the word "are" in her sentence so she could emphasize the word "you" so as to make it clear to the guy that she expects equality in her relationships.
The fact is there are a variety of "right ways" to use English. You more or fewer words and rearrange those words depending on context and what you want to emphasize.

The same goes for ASL.
Actually you could use any of the following:
All of the above are okay in ASL.
The same goes for the "Are you Deaf?" question.
Are all acceptable.
Dr. Bill

QUESTION - a student asks:
"In the question 'BROTHER YOU how-MANY?' Why put the word 'brother' at the beginning? Why not put 'how-many' at the beginning?"

Dr. Bill responds: "Because I told you to."

[Student's jaw drops, disbelieving that his teacher could be so _____ (insert rude words).]

Dr. Bill: "Oh, okaaaay, I'll give you a reason -- but you probably didn't ask your English teacher in high school "why" English is the way it is -- you just learned to speak English the way you do because that is how the other English speakers do it and if you did it differently you would sound weird to a native English speaker. 

The same goes for ASL. We sign it the way we do because that is the way it is signed by native Deaf signers and if we sign it differently it will look weird to other skilled signers). 

So anyway, the reason we Deaf tend to put "wh"-type questions (WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW) at the end of our sentences is so that we don't have to furrow our eyebrows throughout the whole sentence. (Furrowed eyebrows is a grammatical marker that accompanies "wh-type" questions.)


Student:   "But I have a Deaf friend and he doesn't put "how many" at the end.  I asked him how to sign 'How many brothers do you have?' and he signed, 'HOW-MANY BROTHER YOU?"

Dr. Bill:  Uh huh. Right. Well, there are three main reasons why you will see such variations in sentence structure:

1.  Reason one: On very short sentences it is not uncommon to put "wh"-type signs at the beginning. The reason is because it is relatively easy to have furrowed eyebrows for a short three-word sentence. It doesn't feel uncomfortable because the sentence is over so quick. But the longer the sentence, the more likely you will see the WH-type question placed at the end or repeated at the end.

2.  Reason two:  Just as there are multiple ways of saying the same thing in English -- there are also multiple ways of signing things in ASL.  For example, in English upon finding out that her daughter is dating a handsome bald fellow -- a mother might ask her daughter, "You are dating who?!?" She did not ask, "Who are you dating?" She specifically put "who" at the end so she could add meaning and emphasis.  ASL is the same way. We can use different sentence structures to add meaning and emphasis to our questions and statements.
[And no, you may not ask me on a date, I'm married. Sorry.]

3.  Reason three:  Just as you don't always speak English correctly, not all Deaf sign ASL correctly.  Many Deaf people have Hearing parents and grew up "mainstreamed" into public school classes where the lessons where interpreted into Signed English (not ASL). Such Deaf individuals only learned ASL later in life when they started hanging out with native adult Deaf signers.  Thus many Deaf in the Deaf world sign a mixture of ASL and Signed English.  It is not your job nor your place to tell your Deaf friend his signing "wrong."  But it is my job to teach you ASL (not signed English) and so while you will see mixtures of Signed English and ASL out in the "real world," here in this class we will focus on ASL.  So, even though it is common to see (some) Deaf signing short 3-word sentences with the "wh-type" sign at the beginning, I encourage you to instead put it near the end so that you can form the right habits that will help you out later when you do longer sentences.

QUESTION -  a student asks:

I am having trouble with the sign HAVE. In the beginning lessons, if you wanted to ask "How many sisters do you have?" I saw you sign SISTER YOU HOW-MANY? or SISTER HOW-MANY YOU? Would it be wrong if you signed YOU HAVE SISTERS HOW-MANY? I guess I am just confused over whether you show ownership in these types of questions or not. And one final thing... if you wanted to sign "I don't have" would you need the pronoun "I"  or would making the HAVE sign and shaking your head take care of it?

Dear Student,

If certain aspects of your sentence are made obvious by the context it is okay to drop any unneeded signs from your sentence.

If someone asks you:

"Are you going?"

Should you answer, "Yes," or should you answer, "I am going. Yes."?
Both answers would be okay.  The second answer would take more effort and be less "natural."

So whether you should include certain signs in your sentences depends on the context. It depends on what was just said prior to your turn to sign.  The higher the context, the fewer signs you can (or should) use.

- Dr. Bill

For more info, see: NUMBER PRONOUNS



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