"TerpTopics(TM)" "Interpreter Topics Rendered Faithfully (TM)"

Original, relevant, and timely content of interest to ASL and sign language interpreting students and practitioners, including introductory information about deafness and American Deaf Culture.

Topics

WELCOME

 + About Us
 + BLOG
 + Contact Us
 + Jobs  DAILY!
 + Subscribe 
Pink Star

LEGAL

 + Cite this Site
 + Copyright
 + Marks
 + Privacy
 + Terms of Use

INTERPRETING

 + Anecdotes
 + Bi-Cultural Mediation
 + Cloze Skill
 + Compression
 + Demand Control Pink Star
 + Development
 + Dictionaries Pink Star
 + Dynamic Equivalence
 + Education
 + Employment
 + Ethics
 + Expansion
 + FAQ
 + Fingerspelling
 + Glossary
 + Health
 + History
 + How to Become
 + Humor
 + Laws
 + Mentoring
 + Models:
     - Processing
     - Service
 + Practice Pink Star
 + Qualified?
 + Settings
 + Sign Negotiation
 + Silent Socials
 + Technology
 + Tips
 + Vocabulary 

ASK A TERP

 + ASL Students Ask
 + Children Ask
 + CoWorkers Ask
 + Deaf Ask
 + Employers Ask
 + HH Ask
 + Hearing Ask
 + Law Enforcement Asks
 + Neighbors Ask
 + New Terps Ask
 + Parents Ask
 + Relatives Ask
 + Schoolmates Ask
 + Store Clerks Ask
 + Teachers Ask Pink Star
 + Who'd We Miss?

LANGUAGE

 + Linguistics
    - Codes
    - Form & Function
    - Meaning
    - Mode
    - Pidgin
    - Prosody
    - Vocabulary Pink Star
 + ASL
    - Alphabet
    - Classifiers  
    - Dictionaries Pink Star
    - Fingerspelling
    - Grammar
    - History
    - Idioms
    - Practice
    - Variation
    - Visualization
 + English
    - Grammar
    - Idioms

DEAFNESS

 + Causes
 + Community
 + Culture
 + Education
 + Laws
 + Technology

MORE

 + Agency Finder
 + Books
 + DictionariesPink Star
 + Educators
 + Feeds
 + Glossary Pink Star
 + Humor  
 + Jobs
 + Links
 + Movies
 + News  Pink Star
 + Quotes
 + Shop
 + Subscribe
 + Videos & DVDs
 + Worship 


TRANSLATE THIS PAGE


  | Bookmark This Page

ASL GRAMMAR

ASL is "“a visual-gestural language which incorporates facial grammatical markers, physical affect markers, spatial linguistic information and fingerspelling, as well as signs made with the hands” (Humphrey and Alcorn).

Because we are professional sign language interpreters (not professional linguists), we will use a very simple definition of grammar.  Here, grammar means how a language works, or its system of use.

Many people cannot cite grammatical details where their native-language is concerned, yet are fluent users of it.  Typically, children are surrounded by native-users of their first language, and easily acquire it through constant exposure and immersion.  An infant or very young child knows nothing of how a language works; only that it does or does not, and then makes adjustments (corrections or changes) as needed.  

A child acquires fluency through exposure and use; s/he is not learning language in the academic sense (through study).  From the child's perspective, the experience feels seamless and natural as breathing.

When we acquire a language via exposure (attempts at use and correction received directly or indirectly in the form of modeling by others) there is no need to learn about its inner workings, its system, until much later when we try to improve upon acquired skill-levels or decide to learn an entirely different language.  Such purposeful efforts to learn call for knowledge of how the language in question works, bringing the notion of grammar to our attention, perhaps for the first time.

The grammar of a language is its infrastructure, the foundation for its form, organization, and functionality.  Without grammar, language is reduced to simply words that cannot extend meaning beyond themselves.

Learning a new language requires at least a basic knowledge of its rules of use, or the student is wasting his or her time.  After all, why learn a string of vocabulary if you are unable to use it to form a meaningful utterance, actually communicate?  In fact, linguists do not consider a string of vocabulary to be a true language if no distinct and consistent rules of use are in place.

Without grammar, words do not a language make.

The human body includes parts that function in specialized ways and work together in support of the whole.  Languages, too, have parts with specialized functions that work together in support of effective communication.  Signs, in accordance with their individual functions, work together to form a phrase or sentence.  Sentences, in accordance with their functions, work together to form paragraphs, and so on.

 


PARTS OF SPEECH

A fundamental component of grammar is a sign's "part of speech" - its assigned function (purpose).  At this sign-level, the term "part of speech" might just as easily have been called "function of speech," or "role of speech."

Parts of speech for ASL include:

NOUN
  Person, place, thing (includes concept, idea, or animal).
    (e.g. UNCLE, GIRL, LAKE, OCEAN, BOOK, SNAKE, SUGGESTION, PROBLEM)

VERB
  Action, or state.
    (e.g. DRIVE, DREAM, CONSIDER, REMAIN)

ADJECTIVE
  Describes a noun.
    (e.g. GROSS, ORANGE, INVISIBLE, BRIGHT, UNCLEAR)

ADVERB
  Modifies a verb.
    (e.g. CLEARLY, TENTATIVELY, HORRIBLY, NEARLY, QUITE, GLEEFULLY)

PRONOUN
  Replaces a noun.
    (e.g. ME, HE/SHE/IT, THEM/THEY/THOSE, WE/US)

PREPOSITION
  Describes the relationship of two or more nouns/pronouns in terms of time, distance, or location.
    (e.g. IN, ON,  ABOVE, UNDER, ACCORDING-TO, RATHER-THAN, DURING, SINCE, UNTIL, WITHOUT)

CONJUNCTION
  Used to connect words, phrases, or clauses.
    (e.g. BUT/ALTHOUGH/HOWEVER, IF, YET)

INTERJECTION
  Exclamation without grammatical connection.
    (e.g. WOW, WHEW, WHAT, OH-I-SEE)

 


ACTIVE VOICE, PASSIVE VOICE

ASL does not use passive voice.  Instead, responsibility is assigned, clarified, and expressed.

 

Examples of passive voice in English include: "The book was placed upon the table;" and "The client was driven to the appointment."

        


ARTICLES

There are no expressed articles in ASL.

 

Examples of articles in English include: the, a, and an.

 


PHRASE; CLAUSE; SENTENCE



SYNTAX

The topic of syntax is complex.  Language is complex, so it follows that syntax is.  Here, we will discuss only the very basics.  At this stage of the game you want to form grammatically correct sentences (you are not yet ready to enter a scholarly competition in linguistics).  The information in this section will support you in expressing your thoughts accurately and of understanding the expressed thoughts of other signers.

Quick Refresher?
If you would like a refresher on what is an object, subject, or other function of speech, go ahead and get that now (try TerpTopics here or St. Cloud State University here).  If you are confident in your understanding, skip the refresher.  If you're only fairly confident, go for the refresher before reading about syntax.  We can think of few things less productive than having to un-learn something that you invested energy in learning to do wrong.

    All done with that grammar refresher?  Great!  Here we go.

Word-Order

You know how to obtain meaning from English word-order (if you did not, you would be unable to understand this sentence).  And, you know that the syntax (i.e. word-order, order of expression, or organization) of other languages can be very different.

Accent

When features of a first language appear during second language production, we say the person has an accent.  The use of incorrect syntax is a strong indicator that the speaker did not grow up within our language-community.  Among hearing users of American English, language-community means the United States.  For deaf users of ASL, language-community means the signing community within the United States.

When a native English user first attempts ASL, all manner of syntactic chaos can (and often does!) erupt, from minor accent-related issues to monstrous misunderstandings.  A prerequisite for interpreters is proficiency in ASL.

Topicalization  (aka: Topic - Comment)

When preparing to launch into ASL discourse about a new topic, topicalize it.  Most topicalized sentences look like this: Object Subject Verb.  There is often a grammatical pause for emphasis after announcing the object.  The pause grammatically establishes the topic.  Then, go ahead with the remainder of the sentence, which is referred to as the comment.

After the topic has been established and/or clarified (using topicalization), syntax can comfortably be Subject Verb Object (which is typical of English sentences).

            Topicalization word-order is:

Object Subject Verb

            Here's an example:

YOU ME LOVE.

            Using the example, the elements are:

YOU = Object ; ME = Subject ; LOVE = Verb

            Said another way, the elements are:

YOU = TOPIC ; ME LOVE = COMMENT 

            Other examples include:

COFFEE S-A-L-L-Y LIKE (Eng: Sally likes coffee.)

BOOK-ALLAH WE READ (Eng: We read the Qur'an.) 

WHISKEY PERMIT NOT (Eng: Whiskey is not allowed.) 

Time

Time is established at the beginning of discourse, and then updated / reestablished as warranted.  If not yet established, time must be the opening element of a sentence.

 

            Word-order that establishes time is:

TIME Object Subject Verb

            Word-order that establishes time is:

TIME Subject Verb Object 

 

            Here's an example:

YESTERDAY SCHOOL ME SKIP

            Other examples include:

TOMORROW WE-BOTH MOVIE GO WANT?
(Eng: Let's go to the movies tomorrow.)

SO-FAR ME GROW-UP CHOCOLATE LOVE
(Eng: I have always loved chocolate.)

SUPPOSE WEEK-NEXT PAPER me-GIVE-you, YOU ACCEPT WILL?
(Eng: Can I hand in the paper next week?)

 


TENSE


Most often, events are conveyed in sequential order (the order in which they will, should, or did occur).  In contrast, English-users conjugate verbs to convey tense, and are as likely to convey events out of order as they are to convey them sequentially.  The present tense is assumed, unless otherwise established.  

Therefore, the English equivalent of "YESTERDAY ME SWIM" might be "I went swimming yesterday" or "I swam yesterday."  The tense (YESTERDAY) was established, followed by the activity (SWIM), which followed the established tense.  Accordingly, the English equivalent of, "NEXT-WEEK ME SWIM" might be, "I will go swimming next week."

            Tense can also be established using:

                SIGN CHOICE

                        FINISH

                        BEFORE

                        SINCE/UNTIL NOW

                        FROM-THEN/NOW-ON

                        BACK-UP

                SIGN LOCATION

                        Toward the rear of the signer's body: Past tense

                        Very near to the front of the signer's body: Present tense

                        At some distance from the front of the signer's body: Future tense

 


SUBJECT

In a sentence, the subject is the doer.  The subject is the actor, the one behaving.  Subjects carry-out activities; they do things.

            Here's an example:

DOG-MINE FLEA++ HAVE

            Using the example, the elements are:

DOG-MINE = Subject; FLEA++ = Object; HAVE = Verb

 

In the example, the Subject is DOG-MINE because s/he is doing the activity (HAVE).  The Subject HAVE FLEA++.  If the FLEA++ were to have DOG-MINE, then the flea-group would be the Subject of the sentence and it would be written, FLEA++ DOG-MINE HAVE.

 


PREDICATE

Often referred to as "the comment" about the subject of the sentence.  For example, if we want to comment about the day, we might say:

A collection of hours was never so memorable as this.

In the above sentence, "A collection of hours" (subject) was "never so memorable as this" (predicate).  Hmmm.  Must have been quite a day, eh?

 


OBJECT

In a sentence, the Object is the receiver of what the subject does.  The Object is the victim of the subject.  Poor Object , haplessly struck by the activity of a subject.  In a sentence, it is the Object that can truthfully protest, "I didn't do it!"  <wink>

            Here's an example:

WASHINGTON-D-C WE TOUCH-FINISH 

            Using the example, the elements are:

WASHINGTON-D-C = Object; WE Subject ; TOUCH-FINISH = Verb

 

In the example, the Object is WASHINGTON-D-C because it received our visit.  The Object was visited by WE.  If WASHINGTON-D-C were to have visited WE, then WE would be the Object WE WASHINGTON-D-C TOUCH-FINISH.

 


INFINITIVE

You might say that verbs in ASL are assumed to be (or are always) in the infinitive, or that there is no infinitive form of verbs in ASL.

 

Examples of the infinitive (basic) form of a verb in English include: to cook and to jump.

 


PARTICIPLE

        (see: TENSE)

 

Examples of present participle or past participle verb endings in English include: -ing and -ed.

 

... to be continued.

 

This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 17, 2008.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

.

 

Gifts, goodies, and prezzies!  Shop 'til you drop!!  =)

Did someone say
self-indulgence?
YUP!
Click here now!
;)
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Books, books, and MORE books!

So many books;
so little time ...
Why waste it?
Click here now.

.

.

.

.

 

Movies, movies, and MORE movies!!

Discover films of interest to ASL or interpreting students here.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Gifts, goodies, and prezzies!  Shop 'til you drop!!  =)

Did someone say
self-indulgence?
YUP!
Click here now!
;)
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Books, books, and MORE books!

So many books;
so little time ...
Why waste it?
Click here now.

.

.

.

.

 

Movies, movies, and MORE movies!!

Discover films of interest to ASL or interpreting students here.