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ASL Classifiers

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Lisa Koch

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of ASL Classifiers

What are classifiers?
Remember, Classifiers are a morphological unit of ASL.
Morphology is the smallest unit of meaning in a language: similar to words or intonation in English.
Classifiers represent nouns and their function.

They provide more information than pronouns in English. (She, it, him, etc)
Since ASL is a visual/spatial language, classifiers must include description, arrangement and function information about an object.
Categorization of classifiers regarding functionality can be helpful in the overall understanding of classifiers.
Size and shape specifiers
Semantic Classifiers
Body Part Classifiers
Tool / Instrument Classifiers
Body Classifiers
Element Classifiers
Plural Classifiers
Locative Classifiers
Size and Shape Specifiers (SASS)
Also known as Descriptive classifiers (DCL) are portrayed as adjectives describing nouns such as big, small, narrow, wide, thick, thin, wide, long, short, flat, round, etc.
DCL: LL = flat, round
DCL: G = thin
Think of a thin crust pizza or dust on a shelf
Semantic Classifiers are more abstract handshapes that represent a characteristic of the object.
Semantic classifiers serve one of 3 functions
a pronoun for a stated noun
a verb incorporated pronoun
a locative of a stated pronoun
SCL: 3
SCL: 1
Body Part classifiers describe location and of the part such as limbs, eye movement, ears, hair, etc.
Dog Ears
BCL: 11
Person Standing, running
eye movement
While Tool classifiers act as verbs, as in how to operate the tool, . . .
Instrument classifiers serve as nouns, as in how the noun works.
Instrument and tool classifiers differ in 3 ways:
tool = signed with slow, long, repetitive movements (hammering)
instrument = signed with fast, more repetitive movements (hammer)
tool classifiers often signed with facial grammar
Body classifiers use visual/gestural communication as well as facial grammar and/or the signer's body to describe the actions or tendencies of a person.

A signer may use body classifiers to describe how a baseball player pitches or how a person walks.
Element classifiers are used to describe things that do not have a definite size and shape. They tend to be in constant motion, such as the elements of the earth: fire, water, wind, air, and light.

ECL:4 "a running faucet"
ECL:5wg "a candle flame"
ECL:1 (zig zag) "a flash of lightning"
ECL:flat O----->spread C "twinkling lights"
Plural classifiers can indicate a specific number or a non specific number.

PCL: 2 = two people walking
PCL: 4 = a line of people
PCL: v = people seated in a circle
Locative classifiers are used to show placement or spatial information about an object. They can sometimes show movement as well.
LCL:C /LCL:B = place a cup on a napkin
LCL:5 = leaf falling to the ground
LCL:LL = adjusting a picture frame

CL: 3
Because signed languages are perceived visually and are articulated by movements of the hands and body in space, signers have a rich spatial medium at their disposal to express both spatial and nonspatial information.

ASL speakers can use signing space to represent physical space or to represent an abstract conceptual structure.

For sign languages the way we "talk" about space is through the use of classifiers.
When defining classifiers in ASL we must understand predicates and their grammatical function. A complete predicate is the verb plus its objects, complements and adverbial modifiers that tell what the complete subject does or is.

In ASL, classifiers will function as predicates. Classifiers are handshapes that represent complex predicates that express:

Motion (The car meandered up a hill.)
Position (The bicycle is next to the tree.)
Stative-descriptive information (It's long and thin.);
Handling information (I picked up a spherical object.).
Classifier predicates differ from the types of ASL verbs (agreement, spatial and plain verbs) because the hand shape functions as both a morpheme (the smallest meaningful unit in the grammar of a language) and a classifier.

Classifier hand shapes combine with various types of movement morphemes. There are rules for these combinations.
Classifiers are designated handshapes and/or
rule-grounded body pantomime used to represent nouns and verbs.

The purpose of the classifier is to provide additional information about nouns and verbs as stated earlier in this presentation: location, action, size, shape and manner. ASL has many classifier handshapes to represent specific categories or class of objects.

ASL uses the classifier system to give descriptive information about a subject or predicate (verb). This descriptive information is divided into six main categories.
Characteristics of Classifiers

• Classifiers are integral part of American Sign Language.
Classifiers represent a class of nouns and are used somewhat like pronouns.
• Two handed classifiers can be used to represent different referents showing location and action.
• Classifiers can be used as action verbs.
• Classifiers can show spatial relationships.
• Classifiers can show orientation of objects.

• Classifiers can give information about singularity or plurality.
• Classifiers called SASSes give size, shape, depth, shape and texture information about the object.
• The upper body can be used as a classifier.
• Classifiers can show how objects are used or handled.
• The whole body can be used as a classifier through pantomime.
• Locative Classifiers provides spatial and directional information.
Functions of Classifiers
• Represents nouns and pronouns
• SASSes-represents descriptive adjectives and adverbs
• Number information-represents singularity or plurality.
• Outlining-represents shapes and details that cannot be handled by SASSes

• Locatives represents directional information and spatial relationships
• Movement- represents the direction of how a classifier moves.
• Instrument Classifier-represents how an object is handled
• Body Classifier can represent nouns and the action of those nouns.
When do we use ASL Classifiers?
We use ASL classifiers whenever we describe an object, an action or something that occurred; to give directions, to share information about the surroundings; and/or as part of a story i.e., to set the scene or to share characteristics etc.
There are some basic rules that
"govern" the use of classifiers:

• To designate the referent of a classifier, a signer must either fingerspell or sign the referent before the classifier can be used. i.e., BALL GREEN YELLOW STRIPES.
• To choose an appropriate classifier, there must be a relationship between the referent and the descriptive nature of that specific classifier.

• To use SASSes appropriately the signer must incorporate proper non-manual signals.
• To choose appropriate classifiers depends upon the referent and the signer’s intent of focus.
• To use classifiers appropriately there should be a relationship between the real world experience and how the classifiers are expressed.
Please complete the remaining questions of the classifier assignment.
Please complete questions 1-8 of the Classifier Assignment.
Please complete questions 9-16 of the classifier assignment.
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