Prepositions INTO and TO in American Sign Language

An ASL learner asked for an explanation on how concepts are expressed in ASL using the prepositions "into" and "to" in English. Below is a few sentences that are translated into ASL with explanation.

Some ASL verbs are plain and some verbs are modified. The preposition "into" or "to" are pretty much integrated into many ASL verbs (predicates).

Gloss: frog CL:disappear+appear prince.
English translation: The frog turned into a prince.

The preposition into is used in English in this sentence. But, there is no preposition in this ASL sentence (translation). It simply uses a plain verb in this ASL sentence.

Gloss: room[t] i enter.
English translation: I went into the room.

The preposition into is used in this English sentence but it is not used in this ASL sentence. Its verb is equivalent to enter which itself means "to come into".

This OSV (Object-Subject-Verb) sentence is an example of using the "topic-comment" structure in an ASL sentence. The part room is the topic where the eyebrows are raised and the last part i enter is the comment.

Gloss: i go-to store.
English translation: I went to the store.

Unlike the phrasal verb went to in English, the preposition in this ASL sentence is integrated in a single phrasal verb go-to, which is an indicating verb. The signer cannot sign both go-to and to in ASL because that would be redundant.

Gloss: i go-out-to dinner.
English translation: I went to dinner. or I went out to dinner.

Like the indicating verb go-to above, the ASL modified verb go-out-to appears to be a single verb but the preposition is integrated with this verb. This indicating verb contains a referential space, direction, and movement. The "dinner" part is an ASL compound word.

Gloss: book[t] i-give-to-hir.
English translation: I gave the book to him. or I give him the book.

The signed noun book is the direct object and hir (neutral gender) is the indirect object. The modified verb give contains the verb and the preposition. The preposition is incorporated into a classifier predicate or agreement verb.

The structure in this ASL sentence is more related to I give him the book than I give the book to him. The difference is only a position of the word "book", transcribed as The book, I give him. This OSV sentence is known as a "topic-comment" structure.

The signed noun book is the topic and the rest of the sentence is the predicate or comment. This is the "topic-comment" structure (known as "topicalization).

The concepts between ASL and English are equivalent but how words and grammar are constructed are different.

Related posts

Related tutorials: prepositions in sign language.