Learn how to ask a wh-question in American Sign Language (ASL), using a wh-question signed word and the non-manual signal (NMS). A wh-question is referred to when, what, why, who, how, and where.
Use the non-manual indicators of the wh-questions: eyebrows burrowed, head tilting, and slightly hold the last signed word. The gloss symbol used for the WH-questions on this website is \/ to represent the burrowed eyebrows.
There are a few signs for WHAT. The most usage is this:
English translation: What is your name?
ASL GLOSS: you name what?
The down eyebrows and tilting head indicate the wh-question.
Sometimes, signers can express wh-questions with the burrowed eyebrows without using interrogative signs E.g. YOU NAME\/ . Another example is: TIME\/ for "What time is it?"
This one is more commonly used.
Wh-question for WHERE.
There is a couple of signs WHO. One is the generational variation. The other is the common usage today.
Wh-question for WHO.
While there is an old variation, here is the common usage today.
Wh-question for WHEN.
There are a few signs depending on context. Use the general one:
ASL sign for WHY.
This content is available to subscribers. Please log in or sign up in the menu.
These shortcut digits show you how to write eight wh-questions in ASL (American Sign Language) writing. Those writing symbols are not often used, but they can be beneficial to know for writing.
Symbols or digits excerpted from Adrean Clark, How to Write American Sign Language (2012), p 54. at www.aslwrite.com / Robert Arnold Augustus et al. The ASL Writing Textbook, p 34.
It may appear to be a bit overwhelming for some learners. But, when you take a closer look, they would make sense. Think of the mnemonics:
All of them have the same symbol, "V". This "V" digit stands for the burrowed eyebrows. Below the "V" digit are two dots which are eyes. Personally, I probably would omit the eye-dots to reduce the strokes in writing.
Next, a mark on the upper corner of the digit "V" correlates with a distinctive characteristics of each WH quesiton. The round mark is for WHO (with the "oo" mouth morpheme). The straight slash for WHAT feels straightforward. The piggy tail for WHEN relates to the movement of the ASL sign WHEN. The rattle movement mark for WHERE is self-explanatory. The alternative movement for WHICH. And so on. The rest of them feels or looks "onomatopoeic", too.
They are quite clever digits. And fun. Now you can practice writing. Copy and write them.
Question signals for yes/no question, question in sign language, and rhetorical question
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.
Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.
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.