Now that you know some signs, how do you put them together?
American Sign Language is not signed in the same order that English words are spoken. Instead it has its own grammatical rules. While, in English you would write or read a sentence in a specific format, the ASL version would differ slightly while keeping the information or message the same.
ASL does not use state of being verbs or static verbs such as am, be, is. Instead, these words are implied. ASL also doesn’t use articles such as a, the, an. If you wanted to sign that you are a doctor, you would sign DOCTOR ME while nodding your head. If you wanted to ask where the flower went, you would sign FLOWER WHERE with a questioning facial expression.
Pronouns are very informal in ASL; you simply point. If you are referring to a specific person, you simply point to them, whether they are there or not. When referring to more than one person (they, them) you will point and “sweep” your hand as if you are pointing to more than one person.
Word order in ASL is also different. For most sentences, ASL follows the time, topic, comment order. For example, if you were to sign “I bought coffee yesterday” you would sign YESTERDAY ME BUY COFFEE or YESTERDAY COFFEE ME BUY. If you didn’t need to speak of the time specifically, you could sign COFFEE ME BUY. The main topic of the sentence (coffee) is usually first in the sentence.
Grammar changes over time with acceptable and common communal use in the Deaf community. Grammar and signs can also change with different signers, parts of the country, and community influences. Overall, context is the best indicator of the subject of what is signed.
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