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Sentence structure types in American Sign Language (ASL)

Like other languages, ASL sentence structures can be classified four main ways, though there are more constructions of each.

There are sentence structures: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

Simples sentences

A simple sentence contains just one independent clause, which is a group of words that has both a subject phrase and a verb phrase.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me kiss-fist reading books. English version: I love reading books.

Compound sentences

A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses. These clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction which is a word that glues words, phrases, or clauses together.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me kiss-fist read++ books, /\also/\ ix-me fast read++.

The gloss /\ALSO/\, where the symbol /\ represents raising eyebrows, is a coordinating conjunction. There are two independent clauses before and after the conjunction in this compound sentence.

Complex sentences

A complex contains an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. A dependent or subordinate clause does not express a complete thought; it must be attached to its independent clause to become complete.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me fast read++ /\WHY-rh/\ ix-me grow-up bilingual English | ASL.

In ASL, dependent clauses can refer to the conjunctions (e.g. IF or #IF, BUT or #BUT, etc.) and rhetorial questions (e.g. HOW/\, WHY/\, etc.).

Compound-complex sentences

Compound-complex sentences contain a combination of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me fast read++ /\WHY-rh/\ ix-me grow-up bilingual English | ASL /\PLUS ALSO/\ ix-me full-deaf! knack-for eye-receptive, visual-peripheral.


Related topics: Sentence types (statement, question, command, exclamation).

These are some ASL lessons, tutorials, and tips that ASL students and language enthusiasts can explore and learn some ASL on their own relaxing pace.

Seeking some challenges? Try some stories, fables, and others in ASL storytelling and poetry. Study a complex system of subtle eye gazes, role-shifting, classifiers, sentence structures, and other linguistic features as well as poetics.