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Kenyon College


Sign Language Resources: Beginning Class Vocabulary and Sentences


  • Time line
  • Topicalizing
  • SVO (subject verb object)
  • Eye-gazing
  • Directionality
  • Noun verb pairs
  • Classifiers
  • Inflection
  • D/d etiquette
  • Reversal of orientation
  • Facial NMM's
  • Agent indicator
  • Negation
  • Gerunds
  • Initialization

Grammar Concepts

Grammar Concepts

ASL – American Sign Language

CASE –Conceptually Accurate Signed English

Fingerspelling – Spelling alphabetically as opposed to signing

Agent Indicator –Indicates an acting agent (usually a person) combined with a noun or
verb. (Teach plus agent-indicator = teacher)

Non-Manual Markers (NMM’s) – Facial and body language used in conjunction with
manual (hand-using) signs. (Yes, no, wh?)

Inflection – The use of body language to imply emotion/mod/tone of voice.

Reversal of Orientation – The reversal of a sign to imply the opposite (not true of all signs)

Indexing/Indicating –Locating something in space and using it in the future, replacing

Eye-Gazing - The use of the eyes as an NMM.

Directionality/Verb Agreement- Consistency of indexing within a given sentence.

Noun/Verb Pairs - Nouns are often doubled, verbs singularized forms of the same sign.

Topicalizing vs. SVO –Subject-verb-object vs. using the topic of the sentence as the
main way of constructing simple sentences.

Time-Line” – Tense is linear in ASL. Future in front, past behind, present on the body.

 Pronoun Repetition - The repetition of a pronoun at the beginning and end of a sentence to prompt a response in questions. You hungry you?

Classifiers – Know what they are, don’t worry yet about how to use them!

4 ways of negating a sentence - facial no, fingerspelled no, not, no way!

2 ways of doing gerunds - slow the sign down, or repeat the sign

The 20 % Rule - Even the best ASL’ers still initialize about 20% of their words! Don’t
strive for absolute initialization purity.

Initialization - The use of a letter as part of the handshape of a word.

Conversation Dominance - The role of “turn-taking” in ASL conversations in pairs, and in groups.

 Dominant vs. Passive Hand - Your “stronger” hand is usually the dominant, ex. If right handed then your right hand is usually the dominant handshape. Most signs involving both hands performing different handshapes include a dominant and a passive hand. Example: whale.

Handshape - The given shape a hand is in to perform a sign.

ABCOS15 - The 7 most common handshapes.

Handshape Classifier “H” - Commonly used handshape for classifying- ex. Tie, belt.

Bodyshifting/ “or” - The use of the body alone to imply the concept “or”

Code-Switching - Different styles of sign/body language based on who one is talking to - for example: Formal, frozen, casual, intimate.

Numerical Incorporation - Combining numbers and signs into the same action/

Loan Signs - Signs in ASL taken from other languages- ex. Most politically correct

Lexicalizing - The blurring of fingerspelling so as to create new signs.

Cardinal vs. Ordinal #’s – 1, 2, 3 as opposed to first, second, third.

Compound Signs - Signs made up of combinations of two or more other complete signs.

4 basic kinds of sentences - Wh? Questions, yes/no questions, Conditional sentences (if, then) and declarative sentences (affirmative, negative, and neutral)

Temporal Adverbs - The chance of signs for things like day, month, year to mean daily, monthly, yearly.

Familiarity with Alphabet – be quick on the draw with both hands!

Numbers 1-1000 – 1001 should be pretty easy to figure out as well…

Regularity – The repetition of a sign to imply a new meaning with a repetitive focus.
(“to go” when repeated functions as “to attend”)

Duration- The slowing down of a verb sign to imply a long duration of performance of that verb

Cultural Awareness Topics

Deaf/deaf distinction
May I borrow your voice?
Deaf President Now! Movement
Deaf Studies Digital Journal
The role of the body in Deaf culture
Cochlear Implants
Sound and Fury
Crab Theory
Sue Thomas F.B. Eye
Children of a Lesser God
TTY, VRS, VP Technology
Know who Marlee Matlin and Deanne Bray are
Know who George Veditz is
Know who I. King Jordan is
Know what Gallaudet University is
Big River/Deaf West
Name Signs in ASL
Conversational Etiquette

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103 College Drive, Gambier, OH 43022-9624
Tel: (740) 427-5186