An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

And Much More!

Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

Sign of the Day - RAT
(as in the rodent)

Blog Articles by: Marta Belsky

Incidental Information You Don't Get when You're Deaf

Incidental Information You Don't Get when You're Deaf

Deaf Culture   |  Thursday, July 31, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Hearing people have access to “incidental information” all the time. They overhear conversations, they hear comments and remarks on the radio and television. Even background noises count as incidental information. This is called “hearing privilege.”  You don’t even think about it happening because it just does. How often can you actually pinpoint the exact moment you learned a new piece of information? Most of us forget where or how we came by the knowledge we have. We just know what we know. 

Here are some examples of when hearing people get information that deaf people don’t:

  • When a hearing person laughs at something someone said.
  • When hearing students (in a mainstream class) are talking about random things.
  • When an announcement is made over the PA system.
  • When you overhear a conversation at another table or in the next room.
  • When you can overhear 5 or 6 conversations at the same time around you and you can tune in or out of any conversation you want.
  • When interpreters (because of speed or skill) drop information.
  • When elementary school kids listen to what middle school or high school kids say on the bus.
  • An announcement on the radio.
  • A commercial on TV (not all shows or commercials are captioned).
  • Overhearing co-workers answers to client’s questions.
  • Comments between teachers and interpreters.
  • Every time a deaf student looks down to write notes they miss information from the interpreters.
  • What your kids are doing in the next room: closet doors opening, cupboards closing, water running, zippers zipping, tiptoeing up the stairs, giggling.
  • Hearing your keys drop, an alarm go off, a phone ring or a knock on the door. 

When communicating with the deaf, make sure you are aware of this incidental information and do your best to keep them in the loop.

Can you think of other examples of incidental information? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

View/Add Comments (7 comments)

About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

ASL Syntax

ASL Syntax

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Marta Belsky and Christopher Greene-Szmadzinski

In addition to having its own vocabulary, American Sign Language also has its own grammar and syntax that differs from English.

Just like English, every ASL sentence consists of a subject and a predicate.

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Subject - The noun or noun phrases in the sentence. Describes the main focus of the sentence - the person, place, thing, idea, or activity.

Predicate - A predicate can be a verb, a noun, an adjective, or a classifier. The predicate contains the words or signs that describe the action preformed by the subject or that say something about the subject.


The basic, uninflected, word order of ASL is subject, verb, object.

The basic, uninflected, word order of ASL is subject, verb, object.

For example:

  • BOY CHASE CAT
  • I LOSE MY BOOK

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Uninflected - Uses basic grammatical structure without any changes so that is does not express grammatical functions or attributes.


There are many ways to inflect the meaning of sentences.

There are many ways in which a person may inflect their sentences. For example, in English a person may say "The boy chased the cat" or "The cat was chased by the boy". The second example is of an inflected sentence using the "passive voice" rule. Both of the sentences are correct, they just represent different ways of communicating the information.

In the same way, an ASL user may use topicalization or a rhetorical construction to inflect an ASL statement.

For example:

  • BOY CHASE CAT (uninflected)
  • CAT BOY CHASE (topicalized)

There is a required non-manual signal in inflected ASL sentences.

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Inflect / Inflection - Inflection is done to emphasize a word or subject or to indicate a grammatical attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, or gender.

Passive voice - The passive voice is used when the action is not being done by the noun.

Topicalize / Topicalization -  Topicalization causes a subject, word, or phrase to be the topic of a sentence. Often, the subject/object is stated first when topicalizing.

Rhetorical construction - Constructing signs to effectively deliver a message.

Non-manual signals - Non-manual signals are facial expressions or body positions used to convey meaning while you sign.


There are three types of ASL verbs.
 

  1. PLAIN verbs are always signed the same, no matter who is performing the action
     
  2. INDICATING verbs (sometimes called "directional" verbs) change based on either the subject doing the action, or where the action is taking place
     
  3. DEPICTING verbs (sometimes called "classifiers") show what things look like, where they are in space, or how things behave

Unlike in English, all verbs in ASL must always be directly preceded by the subject (ie, who is doing the action). Some examples are listed below. In all of the examples, the subject and verb are connected and cannot have signs appear between them - this is signified by a line between the subject and verb (_).

  • The verb LOVE is a "plain" verb.
    English: "I love books."
    ASL: I _ LOVE BOOK (uninflected)
    ASL: BOOK I _ LOVE (topicalized)
     
  • The verb HELP is an "indicating" or "directional" verb.
    English: "I am helping my sister."
    ASL: ASL: I _ HELP MY SISTER (uninflected)
    ASL: MY SISTER I _ HELP (topicalized)
     
  • The verb CL:3 is "depicting" or a "classifier"
    English: "The car is next to the man."
    ASL: CAR _ CL:3 (in space) MAN _ CL:1 (in space)

Notice, in all of the above sentences, the subject (the person doing the action) always directly precedes the verb. The following sentences would be unintelligible in ASL:

  • BOOK LOVE I
  • HELP MY SISTER I
  • CL:3 CAR

ASL syntax is a complex topic and it takes knowledge and practice to master. Did this article help? Still have questions? Post a comment below.

 

View/Add Comments (3 comments)

Tweet Explained: Why not to buy manual alphabet cards from peddlers

Tweet Explained: Why not to buy manual alphabet cards from peddlers

General Interest   |  Tuesday, May 13, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

We are constantly posting tips, facts, and learning resources related to sign language and Deaf culture on our Twitter @SigningSavvy.  Occasionally we get questions about our tweets and explain them further with a followup article, like this one.
 

@SigningSavvy Tweet:


Explained:

Peddlers who pass out cards with the manual alphabet like to frequent high traffic places like airports and coffee shops and cafes in big cities.  Peddlers appear to be uneducated, unskilled and unemployable — a victim of society. In truth, some of these peddlers are very clever. By preying on gullible hearing people, a successful peddler can earn quite a bit!  

The majority of Deaf people are hard-working taxpayers who bitterly resent the stereotype that these peddlers perpetuate.  For years Deaf people have spent time and energy educating the public and trying to undo negative, demeaning perceptions of the Deaf. Most damaging is the fear that strikes the heart of a mother or father whose child has just been diagnosed as deaf and thinks “Is my daughter or son going to become one of t-h-e-m?”

There is a big difference between buying something from a peddler on a sidewalk and being psychologically pressured into “paying any price you wish” or for an ABC card by someone who comes up to you in a public place.  ABC cards aren’t a legitimate product. They’re a gimmick. Selling them is a con game. Kind hearted hearing people who really want to learn the manual alphabet to communicate with Deaf people shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for it.  If you truly want to “help deaf people” there are many good ways to do it:

  • Buy a ticket to a Deaf theater performance.
  • Contribute to a Deaf school fundraiser.
  • Buy books by Deaf authors.
  • Buy art by Deaf artists.  

Sadly, many of these “deaf” peddlers aren’t even deaf. They’re hearing people faking deafness. As proven time and time again when a person approaches them and asks in fluent American Sign Language (ASL), “Why are you doing this?” Watch them make a quick escape!

Have you been approached to purchase a manual alphabet card before? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

Let us know whenever you have a question about one of our @SigningSavvy tweets and we would be happy to explain it further.  Just ask us on Twitter for clarification or use our contact form.

 

 

View/Add Comments (2 comments)

About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

ASL glossing and conventions

ASL glossing and conventions

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, April 13, 2014

By Marta Belsky and Christopher Greene-Szmadzinski

Since ASL is a visual-gestural language, not a spoken consecutive language, it can only truly be recorded in video and not captured in writing. Many writing systems have been developed for ASL, but none of them have reached a critical mass, probably because it is difficult to capture handshape, location, palm orientation, movement and non-manual signals in a written word. For that reason, when scribing ASL, many people rely on the linguistic convention called "glossing," which means writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. This is not a perfect system, but it can be useful when discussing the syntax of other languages, signed or spoken.

Signing Terminology

Glossing - Writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. ASL is not a writen language, so glossing is not a translation, but a description of what was signed, including signs used, important body language, and accepted glossing symbols.


When writing an English gloss for an ASL sentence, conventions are followed.

Here are a few glossing conventions that are commonly used:

  • Signs are capitalized, such as BOY, HOUSE, ME
  • Words that are fingerspelled have dashes written between the letters, such as M-A-R-Y, D-O-G, S-A-L-E
  • Classifiers are written as CL: handshape, such as CL:3 (vehicle), CL: 55 (feet), CL: CC (telephone pole)

Signing Terminology

Classifiers - A classifier is a combination of a classifier handshape and movement root that are made to reference whole phrases with a single sign. First a signer will sign the subject, then they can use a classifier to describe something about that subject - what it looks like, where it is, how it moves or behaves.

These are not all of the conventions, these are only a few. What other ASL conventions do you know? Share them in the comments below.

 

View/Add Comments (1 comments)

View More Blog Posts:

 

SOTD ASL gloss video



Savvy Tutoring and Savvy Chat



ADVERTISEMENTS