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Fingerspelled loan signs in sign language

It's not unusual that a spoken language has a number of words and phrases borrowed from another spoken language. English has quite a large number of loan words from other languages from Latin and Greek to French and German. For example:

Arabic: algebra
French: music
German: kindergarten, sauerkraut
Greek: comedy, drama
Spanish: cigar, taco, tortilla.

The names of places and locations are a common loan from one language to another, whether it be spoken or signed.

While American Sign Language (ASL) has a number of signed loanwords from other signed languages, it also can borrow words from spoken languages. How? Fingerspelling.

Lexicalized fingerspelling

Unlike regular fingerspelling, fingerspelled loan signs are the signs that a fingerspelled word is evolved into a sign. They are also known as lexicalized fingerspelling.

Below are some examples of the loan-signs or loanwords which usually marked with a "#" followed by capital letters:

#OK, #ALL, #IF, #EX, #OR, #OHH!, #OFF, #ON, #OR, #OT (overtime), #SO, #WHAT! and so on. #FUN, #TTY, #BUS, #PIZZA.

To help my ASL students understand, do you know that the ASL sign "NO" itself is an abstract fingerspelled loan? I showed them, fingerspelling N-O evolving into ASL sign #NO. The students flashed their eyes. Yeah, you'd never know that.

A few other fingerspelled loanwords don't look like the other fingerspelled loanwords at all and ASL students are often surprised to learn that the ASL signs were originated from fingerspelling such as:


Some loanwords are stylized such as #STYLE (one of ASL students' "favorite difficulties"), #QUIZ, and so on.

ASL students are advised to perceive them as ASL words, not fingerspelled words, by perceiving the movement and shape of the words. Do they listen English words by letter by letter? No, they perceive the whole word of its shape and movement.

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