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Spatial referencing and pronouns in sign language sentences

Learn how to use spatial referencing, using personal and possessive pronouns in sentences in American Sign Language (ASL).

Remember to use your index finger for personal pronouns (e.g. you, s/he, it) and whole hand with closed fingers for possessives (her, his, its).

There is no gender for pronouns and possessives in ASL unless you mention a gender in context (e.g. "A woman.. she..") in sentences. For this demonstration, there is no gender mentioned so she and he are interchangeable.

Gloss: IX1 POSS2 BROTHER
English equivalent: She/he is his/her brother.

Understand the glosses. IX is a index-finger pointing (pronoun) and POSS is a possessive. The number represents a spatial locus. E.g. The locus of IX1 is on the right side and IX2 is on the left side of the signer.

In this case, "She/he (IX1) is his/her (POSS2) brother.

Gloss: IX2 POSS1 STUDENT
English equivalent: She/he is his/her student.

You can establish IX1 in either right or left side and then assign the other side IX2. When talking about one person, one usually uses the dominant side of the signer. When talking about two persons, a signer usually uses the dominant side for the main subject.

Gloss: IX1 POSS2 TEACHER
English equivalent: She/he is his/her teacher.

Using two sentences above, notice that spatial referencing is stable. E.g. She (IX1) is her (IX2) teacher and she (IX2) is her (IX1) student. So, the teacher is IX1 and the student is IX2.

Gloss: IX1 MY MOTHER.
English equivalent: She is my mother.

Can you guess what does it mean?

Gloss: IX-me HER DAUGTHER.
English equivalent: I'm her daughter.

Try practicing more on your own as follows:

"I am her/his daughter (or son)."

"This is my cat (or dog)."

Related Posts

Also see personal pronouns.

Possessive pronouns in sign language.

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