Describing distances in sign language

Non-manual grammar, classifiers, and verbs are used to describe a distance of something. The major mouth morphemes to describe distances in ASL (American Sign Language) are: "AAH", "MM", "OO".

Some examples below will show you how to use mouth morphemes for distances.

Mouthing "mm"

The mouth morpheme "mm" conveys a meaning for a medium distance, a middle size, or an average.

Mouthing "aah"

The mouth movement "aah" conveys something that is far, moving far away, etc.

The signer uses the "ahh" mouth movement to describe a very long line-up.

Mouthing "oo" and "cs"

The mouth movement "oo" conveys a meaning for a short distance in some cases. Another mouth movement "cs" also describes a short distance (in either space or time).

Some ASL signs can use "cs" but cannot use "oo" and some vice versa, depending on what contexts are. Some ASL words can work with either "cs" or "oo" -- for example, by-hairline.

The mouth classifier "cs" signifies too close or extremely close either in space or time. Usually much shorter in distance than the mouthing "oo". For example, just right around the corner, right next to, just-recently, etc.

Beyond distances

Not only these mouth morphemes are used to describe a distance in space or time, but they also describe other things than distance.

For example, when using sensitive while mouthing "CS", it's inflected to very-sensitive.


These three videos show how mouth morphemes are used to describe how far the ball is thrown.

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Related posts

Also see facial grammar describing sizes: OO, MM, CHA