I don’t know what I don’t know

When I was diving into my sign-language study this week I began to realize how much more there is to this then just singing. In the first week, I went into the Deaf culture a bit, but since then I’ve discovered a lot more things that Hearies like myself often overlook. From this what I have decided to do is semi-separate the different aspects I’m learning. As I continue to find more information about signing I really feel like I should be sharing it with you all. So though I will be continuing to post a few times a week some I will demonstrate the signs I’m learning, where others may just be information I’m learning.

This is one of those information ones. Information based from lifeprint.com

Today’s Main Focus: GRAMMER

Deaf Culture
Taken from vawnet.org

It seems that every couple of weeks we have some new “text talk”, slang, or random acronym. When I was growing up I remember explaining to my parents that LOL was “laughing out loud” and not “lots of love” and they should use it accordingly, that IDK really did mean I DON’T KNOW. However one of the most memorable was when my mom was asking how to get a certain symbol while texting. My sister replied, ” You just have to touch the FN button”. My goodness, my mom was about to LOSE IT in a rant about language and respect… that is until she realized the FN was indeed a button that stood for “function”.  But as a new generation enters the online community the number of new terms to learn increases once again, just as I further investigated sign language I open myself up to their acronyms and slang.  One of the new acronyms I learned this wee was NMM. On one of my earlier posts on my ASl journey, I talked about the importance of facial cues and how signing is more than talking with your hands but communicating with your entire body. NMM breaks this down quite perfectly by standing for “Nonmanual Marker”. Essentially it means “a signal that you do without using your hands that influence the meaning of what you are saying….signing that you do without your hands“. What I am continuously loving about this language is not the lack of voice but the inclusion of one’s entire self in communicating, it truly is beautiful.


Initialization/Initialized Signing

This was another new idea for me this week as I learned that the overuse of initialized signs was not only frowned upon by the Deaf Community but can often be seen as disrespectful as well.  As I’m sure many of you know there is not an existing sign for every word in the English language, and many signs have multiple definitions (e.g from last weeks blog: “single”,” just”, “only,” and “someone” is all the same sign).  Initialized signing essentially (from my basic understanding) is people trying to adapt ASL for hearing people by “distinguishing”  what word out of the options that exist they are specifically signing.  People will perform the “root sign” (the movement and direction) of the sign, but instead of doing the correct hand shape, they will make the shape of the first letter of that word. Class, group, team, and family are all words that share the same sign, but if you look any of these words upon the online video dictionary I shared last week they will appear slightly altered by the shape of the person’s hand demonstrating.  Here is a video that helped me develop more of an understanding of this idea.

I would like to note that I was originally hesitant to share this video as the lady speaking is hearing. However, upon more digging, I discovered that she is fluent in ASL,  and works as an interpreter, she is also in a relationship with a person who is deaf where they communicate through ASL as well.


“It’s not what you said it’s how you said it”

I am sure many of us have heard this saying multiple times from a sibling, or parent, and though I often responded with an eye roll the statement remains true. When speaking we consider our tone, pitch, facial expression, eye contact, “sophistication” of words. And it’s no different when signing. Something I’ve said in multiple posts already is that signing is NOT TALKING WITH YOUR HANDS but is a “gesture-based language that is largely expressed through the entire body.” When singing there are 5 general parameters that need to be considered.

  1. Handshape
  2. Location
  3. Movement
  4. Orientation (palm orientation)
  5. “Facial Expressions” and/or “Non-manual Markers”

Review of Elementary English

Nouns, verbs, adjectives, subject. All words I had to learn in English (with many more), but I find myself returning to “predicate” as well as past and future tenses. “Predicate” is roughly a word, sign or phrase, that, “says something” about the subject. In English class, I would write “I am sleepy”.  I would be the subject, but “sleepy” would be the predicate. BUTTTT ASL doesn’t use “be verbs” making the sentences signed as ” I sleepy”. And though I know I spent a lot of time in my writing trying to make sure I was using a consistent form of text that is also irrelevant when signing. “wash” becomes “washed” and “run” becomes “ran” without having a separate distinction. Instead, context clues become increasingly important or put the “time signature” at the beginning of a sentence, or before the comment (yesterday, recently, next)

Unfortunately, the cheat sheet she mentions in the video no longer is available, but she doe have some great videos.

Endings Confuse Me, but al progress is progress, right?

When writing or speaking in English we add endings like “ing, s, and ed’ but how do you sign this? GENERALLY, you don’t really have to. But let’s break it down.

  • “S” Pluralization →The sweeping motion→ turn “he” into “they”
  • “ed” → Tense Marker (see video above) or established from context
  • “ing, ed, and other suffixes are not used in ASL”
    • If I want to change ‘learn’ to ‘learning’ I would sign ‘learn’ twice, but often the “ing” is implied.
    •  If you want to sign dying as opposed to “die” or “dead” you would do the sign slower (more drawn out) and not quite “finish” the sign before moving on to the next sign in your sentence.



4 thoughts on “I don’t know what I don’t know

  1. Hey Brianne, I found this post so interesting! I’ve been learning little bits and pieces of ASL, but all of this was new to me. Have you been learning some of the initialized signs? Or are you focusing on the pure ASL signs? I thought that video was really helpful in understanding that side of things, so thanks for sharing!


    1. Hey Julia, I’m glad the video helped. Somethings are just so hard to explain. The resource that told me to limit the number of initialized signs is teaching me at the same time. Because of that, I have accepted the ones they have taught me, but I’m more hesitant to Google signs or use other resources that may be not directly created by the Deaf community.

      Liked by 1 person

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