ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

American Sign Language: Linguistics
Also See "linguistics (1)"
Also See "linguistics (2)"

In a message dated 2/10/2006 7:32:25 PM Pacific Standard Time, DJ3262 writes:
Hey Dr. Bill,
I got the book Linguistics Of American Sign Language 4th edition. I don't know whether you have it or not. Very good and interesting. A few things, though. This book mentions that the sign for girl is repetitive. Where did they get that from? I couldn't find that in my dictionary or on your website. Also, I think i remember reading that you said lexicalized fingerspelling and loans signs were the same. This book reads like they are different and that both are part of ASL. Third, it was interesting finding out that you can't have a subject after the verb. Like "silly boy". I noticed some changes on your website. How often is your website CD updated? Learning a lot. Thanks. 

You will find that many Deaf people sign "GIRL" with a single movement.
I've noticed that same thing with the sign "BOY." Some people do the sign "BOY" with a double movement, some do a single movement.
When "GIRL" is signed as part of a compound like "GIRL-FRIEND" you should certainly use a single movement.
So, add these two principles to your list:
1. There is a great deal of variation out there in the "real world."
2. American Sign Language, like all living languages, is constantly evolving.
What I said regarding lexicalized signs and loan signs was:
<<"Lexicalized" fingerspelled words used to be called "loan signs." Some people still call lexicalized fingerspelled words "loan signs" but the term "loan sign" more accurately applies to signs that were "borrowed" from other signed languages and became part of ASL.>>
Allow me to clarify: In the "old days" many ASL instructors (including me) referred to lexicalized fingerspelled words as "loan signs."   Then, later we stopped calling such signs (#EARLY, #BANK, #WHAT, #BACK, #BURN, etc.) loan signs and started calling them lexicalized fingerspelling. Now we use the term "loan signs" to describe signs like the new versions of: JAPAN, CHINA, SPAIN, MEXICO, etc. which were "borrowed" from the signed languages of those countries.
Regarding the statement "you can't have a subject after the verb" -- hate to break it to you my friend, "silly" isn't a verb, it is an adjective. But I know what you are referring to--the principle that you shouldn't use physiological and/or emotional descriptions prior to nouns e.g. "silly boy," "sick dog."  I'd again like to point out principle number 2 above: ASL is constantly evolving, but in general that principle holds true.
For many years people used to say "ain't" wasn't a word and that it wasn't in the (English) dictionary. Well actually, they said, "Ain't ain't a word and it ain't in the dictionary." Heh. But, guess what? It is now. (
I think you will find the same is happening with ASL. Forms and usages that may not have been common 10 years ago are working their way into mainstream acceptance. When will "new phrases" (or grammar styles) be considered "acceptable?" Accepted by who? A high school kid may almost instantly accept a new sign. Heck, he probably made it up in the first place. But it will be years before the new sign finds its way into an ASL dictionary, (if ever).
What constitutes "proper" ASL depends on either group consensus, or the person who is giving the grade.
If you find yourself in a new group or taking a class taught by a peculiar teacher, you need to adjust your concept of "the right way to sign" to match your new circumstances.
Dr. Bill


Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >