Other Vocabulary

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The signs ELEMENTARY-SCHOOL, SEMESTER, UNIVERSITY and LANGUAGE (as well as others shown here) are examples of so-called initialized signs. Initialized signs use the handshape that is associated with the first letter of the corresponding English word. These handshapes can be useful cues in remembering what the sign means. Often in ASL, several words representing related concepts are distinguished by the handshape of the first letter of the different words. One example that you will learn later are the signs for DOCTOR and NURSE. Doctor is signed with a D-hand that is tapped on the up-turned wrist of the other hand. NURSE uses the same location, palm orientation, and movement; however this sign employs the N handshape.

Person Marker: STUDENT, TEACHER. Notice that the signs for TEACHER and STUDENT use the verbs LEARN and TEACH, respectively, with the addition of a person marker. To make the person marker, both hands are located forward from the chest with flat-handshapes and palms oriented toward the center; the two hands move down along the sides of the body. This person marker can be added to many nouns or verbs to describe something about a person. For example, to sign AMERICAN, one would combine the sign for AMERICA with the person indicator. Similarly, to sign CHEF, you would sign COOK + person indicator. In the sign STUDENT, the person marker is articulated only with the dominant hand.

Gender: Many signs referring to male persons are made on or near the forehead; two examples shown here are BOY and MAN. In contrast, many signs refering to female persons are made on or near the chin or lower cheek; note the signs GIRL and WOMAN. You will see more examples of these two patterns later in the course.