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Descriptive classifiers in sign language

A signer can express adjectives in many different ways using a classifier, a movement, a facial expression and/or combinations of these. A descriptive classifier (DCL) can be used to describe or express a size or a shape of something.

Below is an example of how the classifier is used to describe the sizes and shapes of an object in ASL (American Sign Language).

big pole using classifier DCL

This classifier DCL:F can be used to refer to an object, such as a button, a stain, eye pupils, toy wheels, etc. It can be adjusted to describe a different size (e.g. eye pupil) along with mouth morphemes when semantically required.

The classifiers in these images from the left to the right represent the sizes and shapes of the pole from the thinnest to the thickest. You can do the same for a pipe (but usually change the orientation, depending on the orientation of an object. E.g. horizontal or vertical).

ASL classifier

Another example of using the classifier is the small eye pupils. Note the mouth morpheme "OO" which indicates small.

ASL classifier

On the other hand, it's large eye pupils.

Modiyfing a movement parameter of the signed word changes the meaning. In this case, the video illustrates the eye pupils that adjust to the light.

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Also see semantic classifiers (SCL).

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