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Linguistics of ASL

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Alison Clark

on 11 December 2012

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Transcript of Linguistics of ASL

Verbs in ASL Linguistics of ASL Chapters 7, 8 and 9 Plain Verbs Plain verb signs are produced in a static location. If this location is changed the meaning of the sign is also changed. These signs do not contain any information about the subject or object of the sentence, and the location of the sign does not convey additional meaning.

Examples of Plain Verbs include the signs: EAT, ENJOY, FORGET, HAVE, LIKE, LOVE, and PUNISH. Simple Sentences in ASL Classifier Predicates Every language uses verbs. Verbs relate meaning for action and states of being. There are three types of verbs in American Sign Language: Plain, Indicating, and Depicting. ASL is a very complex language capable of expressing intricate and abstract ideas thanks to its completeness and also its flexibility. This paper will discuss some of those complexities, as written about in the book Linguistics of American Sign Language: an Introduction, 4th Edition (Clayton Valli, 2005). I will be covering chapters seven, eight and nine. All the information here is collected from the book. Indicating Verbs Indicating Verbs are less static than Plain Verbs. They involve motion which incorporates additional information about the meanings of the signs. There are two types of Indicating Verbs: Reciprocal Verbs, and Locative Verbs. Reciprocal Verbs add another layer of information because they show reciprocation between two or more people. For example the sign LOOK-AT-EACH-OTHER. Locative Verbs are also a type of Indicating Verbs. In Locative Verbs, the location part of the verb is contained in how the sign is made. The location does not have its own meaning, but gives additional meaning to the root sign. For example, the sign THROW can contain information about where something is thrown from and where it is thrown to. The handshapes used do not have their own meaning, and do not add additional information to the sign. Depicting Verbs Depicting Verbs can be distinguished by their ability to show two kinds of information. This is done in 3 ways. Shows something in space
The first kind of Depicting Verbs show something in space. The book uses the example of telling a story about a car ride. The story teller would begin by establishing that they are talking about a car. The story teller would use a classifier three handshape to “set” the car into space in front of them. That is now where the car is in the story, until the signer moves it. Shows what something looks like
Depicting Verb’s second type shows you what something looks like. In the car ride example used before, establishing the car showed where the is in space. Now if the storyteller wants to describe to us driving up a mountain, the signer could show the side of the mountain being steep. Using one hand as a place keeper, the signer would show the side of the mountain by moving the other hand upward in a steep incline. Shows movement or action
The final type of Depicting Verb shows movement or actions. Now that the story teller has set up both the car and the side of the mountain, they can move the classifier three handshape to show the car driving up the side of the mountain surface they just signed. Transitive and Intransitive Verbs Subjects and predicates are the two main parts of sentences. Predicates include verbs and other words that are affected by the verb. The subject is a noun or pronoun and words that are associated with it, such as adjectives. Some sentences also contain objects, though not all do. Verbs and predicates that do not allow for objects are called Intransitive. Example: "The mother loves the baby." subject verb object Example: The boy is silly. subject verb This sentence does not allow for an object. It is INTRANSITIVE. Many verbs in American Sign Language do allow for objects, however. These are Transitive Verbs. Other transitive ASL verbs discussed are: ANALYZE, EAT, FEED, GIVE, HAVE, LEND, READ and SEE. American Sign Language follows the basic word order of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), though there are other sentence structures which also are allowed. Often we think of this as Topic-Comment structure. Because ASL is a flexible language, other word orders can be used. Simple Sentences with Intransitive Plain Verbs Simple sentences with Intransitive Plain Verbs do not allow for objects. These sentences use a Subject-Verb (SV) format. Again, the sentence “The boy is silly,” would be signed as BOY SILLY. “The boy is” does not allow for an object in the sentence and SILLY signed in one place. Simple Sentences with Transitive Verbs Topicalization is the means by which signers focus attention on important information or topics. The topic is placed at the beginning of the ASL sentence. The way this is done is through raised eyebrows and a slight head tilt. Topicalization Simple sentences with Transitive Plain Verbs DO allow for objects. Example: "The mother loves the baby." subject verb object Indicating Verbs Indicating Verbs can be directed in space. Because of that, they contribute additional information to the sentence they appear in. The book discusses three sentence structures for Simple Sentences with Indicative Verbs: There are no additional signs for the subject and object. The book uses the example “I give you.” The sentence can be conveyed with a single sign and motion. The only sign that is used is GIVE, but because of its placement in space, we understand the meaning to be “I give you.” Structure one Structure two Structure three Some of these sentences require a separate sign for the subject. For example TELL. Signing the English sentence “He tells me,” requires two signs. The first sign, HE, is the subject of the sentence and the second, TELL-ME, is an Indicating Verb. The motion of the sign produces additional information about the sentence. The third sentence structure is one in which a subject pronoun comes after the verb. This is also used as emphasis or for clarity. An example: HE GIVE-ME HE. Classifier Predicates are a type of verb in American Sign Language. A predicate is a part of a sentence which says something about nouns or noun phrases. What is a Predicate? A predicate is a part of a sentence which says something about nouns or noun phrases. In the English sentence “The boy is home,” for example, “the boy” is the noun phrase, and “is home” is the predicate. Predicates are not limited to verbs, and can take several forms. American Sign Language has another type of predicates called Classifier Predicates. These verbs are used to convey additional information with the use of a classifier. The predicate can be in the classifier’s movement. For example, “The car drove past” can be signed as the following: CAR CL:3CAR-DRIVE-BY.

CAR-DRIVE-BY is a single movement using the classifier 3. This is a Classifier Predicate. It conveys information about the car’s action.

Classifier Predicates have two basic parts: The movement root and the handshape. Classifier Predicates Movement Roots i. Stative Descriptive: the hand moves to describe an object, but this does not mean the object itself is moving. Such as describing a long, flat surface, or mound of rice.
ii. Process: the hand also moves in this example, but the motion is indicative of the object moving as well. The earlier example of the car driving by used this Movement Root.
iii. Contact Root: This group of movement roots has a downward motion, but does not indicate the object is moving. The downward motion is used to mean BE-LOCATED-AT. Handshapes i. Whole Entity Morphemes: These handshapes represent the whole of an object, such as an animal or person standing. Airplanes are another example.

ii. Surface Morphemes: Much like it sounds, these morphemes represent thin surfaces, wide or narrow, and sometimes thin wires. Often the B handshape is used.

iii. Instrumental Morphemes: These morphemes are handshapes which represent hands holding objects, such as a glass or a paper.

iv. Depth and Width Morphemes: These morphemes show the depth and width of things. For example, tree trunks, pipes, etc, or a thick layer of something, such as snow.

v. Extent Morphemes: Representations of amounts of volumes such as liquid in a glass, an increase or decrease of an amount, ie: a deflating tire
vi. Perimeter-shape Morphemes: These show the external shape of something, such as rectangle, circle, button, etc.

vii. On-surface Morphemes: This group represents large groups or crowds of people, animals or objects. Classifier Predicates are verbs, however, they can be used to show the concept of “more than one.” If a signer is trying to represent a row of parked cars, they could “place” several cars in a row, or use a sweeping motion and a placeholder. More-Than-One Lexicalization Lexicalization is the when the meaning of the smaller units gets lost in the meaning of the large units. For example, the sign for FALL was made of morphemes which represented a person’s legs standing and then falling, but the sign has taken on its own meaning and can be used when not referring to a person falling. Productive Classifier Predicates’ morphemes can be separated. For example signing people walking in pairs using a V handshape. The people can walk towards each other, away from each other or in many ways. The signer uses the Classifier Predicates to build the signs from scratch. Productive Classifier Predicates Hopefully this presentation has shed some light on how verbs are used in ASL, and how to properly use them. You are probably already using each type of verb discussed without realizing how complex and important a role they play in the language.
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