Beginner II

The Cock and the Diamond

Storytelling an adapted Aesop fable in American Sign Language (ASL).

English version: A rooster was busily scratching and scraping about to look for something to eat. Something that was shiny caught his eye. He picked it up with his beak and took a look at it. It was a diamond. The rooster thought to himself, "Its owner, who had lost, must really value this precious jewel."

"But as for me, it has no value, nothing really. If there were thousands of diamond pieces all over the place collected in a pile and a single grain of barleycorn found, which would I choose? Naturally, I would choose this single grain of barleycorn before all the diamonds."

ASL storytelling
Illustration by Harrison Weir, John Tenniel, Ernest Griset,, 1881. Aesop's Fables published by WM. L. Allison, New York

Narrative point of view

In this ASL fable, a first-person point of view is the character. In the opening, the narrator begins with the topicalization: a rooster. In the first sentence, the narrator's and the rooster's point of view begin to merge into one, becoming undistinguishable. For the rest of the fable, it is the rooster's point of view as a narrator.


Notice some subject-object agreements using a spatial/locative agreement in this fable as well as head tilt and eye gaze constitute correlates of subject and object agreement. Observe some examples in the fable how the narrator uses her head tilt, eye gaze, space and location of the diamond, how the diamonds and the barleycorn are located within the spatial agreement.


Can you identify some classifiers in this fable? There is a classifier verb phrase: the rooster's feet (3-handshapes, facing down). Another classifier is the rooster's beak. The narrator uses this classifier that represents the beak holding a diamond, as she already has referred it to the beak (noun) which is then followed by the classifier (pronoun).

ASL storytelling
Illustration by Harrison Weir, John Tenniel, Ernest Griset,, 1881. Aesop's Fables published by WM. L. Allison, New York

Points of View

If you would like to submit your view or interpretation, email through the link in the footer below.

"Precious things are without value to those who cannot prize them." -- The Aesop for Children

"Gems can't pacify hunger."

"What's valuable to one may not be valuable to another." -- Cindy Ciccotelli (Email, Nov. 23, 2015).

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

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Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.