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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Signs of the Times, Second Edition

Edgar H. Shroyer
Illustrated by Susan P. Shroyer

Organization of the Text

Signs of the Times is divided into 44 lessons with approximately 30 signs in each lesson. One of several unique features of the book is the presentation of vocabulary. Using a spiral approach, each sign is repeated several times within a lesson and from lesson to lesson, building on the previously introduced signs. The practice sentence under each sign contains the new sign being illustrated as well as signs already introduced. Signing each sentence allows the students to practice cumulative vocabulary to enhance retention.


This book contains 1,300 signs representing concepts and ideas in ASL. The signs represent approximately 8,000 English glosses (English words that convey the same meaning as a sign). Signs of the Times does not include every known ASL sign´┐Żno sign language book can make that claim because ASL is a living language and it is always in flux. In addition, it would be difficult to catalog all ASL signs due to the many local and regional variations. Many of these sign variations are documented in Signs Across America (Shroyer and Shroyer, 1992). This book contains 17 different signs for tomato, 16 different signs for strawberry, 11 signs for favorite, 11 signs for clock, and so forth. Signs of the Times attempts to incorporate the most frequently used signs used in the United States; however, such a task is somewhat arbitrary given all the sign variations that exist. Instructors may introduce regional signs and may even give them precedence over the signs in this book. This will reinforce the students´┐Ż awareness of sign variations.

The very last lesson, Lesson 44, shows 25 signs for countries around the world that are frequently in the news or often discussed.

The concierge had told me to be back before 1:00 p.m. for a ride to the airport. I made it fifteen minutes before that. I was hungry and asked for lunch. No, he said, the airline had paid for my breakfast only. I had to wait and eat in the plane or buy my own food. Having already read the menu in the morning, I decided to skip the lunch. I already had spent more than $4 in tube and admissions. My funds were dwindling fast. It was time to tighten the belt, literally.


Signs represent concepts; therefore, almost all signs have several English synonyms (two or more words that have the same meaning). For example, the synonyms for the sign meaning allow include let and permit. All of these words represent the same concept and are signed the same way. Conversely, an English word may have multiple meanings, and, therefore, different ASL signs are needed to convey the different meanings. For example, three different signs for left would be used in the following sentences: Take a left turn at the next light; We left the party at 11:00; I left my book at home. Sign language texts that teach the same sign for one English word, no matter the meaning, do not follow the conceptual premise of ASL. Signs of the Times presents a number of English synonyms for each sign in the book to help students build their understanding of sign concepts, choose signs based on context, and remain true to ASL principles.


The signs in this book were selected from several lists of most frequently used words in the English language. Additional signs represent vocabulary used in Deaf culture. Names of some popular stores, words associated with technology, and some new signs are also included in the book. Many signs that were considered new twenty years ago are now commonly used by the Deaf community and are considered ASL signs.

Sentences under Signs

Two sentences appear under each new sign. The first sentence is written in English, and it provides the context or meaning of the sign. The second sentence is written in ASL grammar and, if necessary, may show the conceptual meaning of the sign; that is, which sign should be used to convey the accurate concept. These ASL sentences are presented in bold lowercase letters.

My father likes to run every day. Father left early yesterday
everyday father my jog like yesterday early father depart

Some ASL sentences have parentheses around vocabulary. The parentheses indicate that the word may or may not be signed. For example,

Put the gasoline near the house.  
gasoline near house (you) put  

Sometimes a sign should be repeated for emphasis or to show that the concept is plural. In these situations, plus (+) signs follow the gloss. For example, the ASL sentence girl+ play++ means The girls are playing.

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