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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Language and the Law in Deaf Communities

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a f f i r m a t i o n

Affirmation of a proposition is signaled by head nodding throughout the sentence being affirmed. For example, the proposition I am going home would be signed:

Head:     head nodding             
Hands:    pro. 1 (i) go home

n e g a t i o n

Negation of a proposition is signaled by head shaking throughout the sentence. Thus, the proposition Im not going home would be signed:

Head:     head shaking              
Hands:    pro. 1 (i) go home

q u e s t i o n s

ASL distinguishes between two types of questions. A question that simply seeks confirmation of the information contained within it is known as a Yes/No Question. This is in contrast to a Wh- Question, which seeks new information from the listener.

A Yes/No Question is formed by raising the eyebrows throughout the entire sentence. Thus, the proposition Are you quitting? is signed as follows:

Eyebrows:     raised-------            
Hands:           quit pro. 2 (you)

A Wh- Question, on the other hand, is formed by lowering the eyebrows throughout the entire sentence. Accordingly, the proposition Whats your name? is signed as follows:

Eyebrows:     lowered--------
Hands:           your name

c o n d i t i o n a l s

A conditional relationship between two clauses is signaled in ASL by two constellations of nonmanual signals, one for each clause. During the condition clause, the eyebrows are raised, and the head, upper body, and hands move slightly to the right or the left. During the result clause, the eyebrows, head, upper body, and hands move into a neutral position with the addition of a head nod or headshake. Whether the head is nodded or shook during the result clause depends on whether the result clause is an affirmative or negative clause. Below is an example of a conditional sentence in ASL:

If youre going to quit, then Im not going to quit.

Body:            lean right --, neutral---
Head:            lean right --, shake-----
Eyebrows:     raised-------, neutral----                      
Hands:           quit pro. 2 (you), quit pro. 1 (i)


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