Mouth morpheme "TH" in American Sign Language

The mouth morpheme "TH" in ASL is non-manual, grammatical. When this mouthing is used, it may convey an adverb of the ASL word. Or, it may modify an ASL word to describe its meaning.

This morpheme can be attached to many ASL verbs, adjectives, and adverbs (not all nor any!). In addition, there are a few ASL words that the "TH" morpheme is an undetachable part of these words. E.g. NOT-YET.

The mouthing "TH" used with some words is commonly found in NOTHING, NOT-YET, TAKE-FOR-GRANTED, and such.

The "TH" mouthing attached to a word may indicate that something is stuck. E.g. "STICK-th" (e.g. a gum stuck on the sole of a shoe); STICK-TO-MIND-th (e.g. deeply imprinted to memory that cannot be forgettable); VERY-STICKY-th (STICKY without TH has a different meaning), ...

Another use of TH is something that is dent, usually in a classifier. E.g. CL:CAR-dent, FLOOR-dent,

The use of TH is also associated with "gross/ugly". E.g. VERY-DIRTY(th); VERY-STICKY-th;

Another use of TH with some ASL words may be associated with "by mistake/careless". E.g. CARELESS-th; WRONG-arc-th (blunder); DISTRACTED; OVERLOOKED-th ...

The mouthing TH used with some words may be associated with "foolishness/no-seriousness". E.g. PLAY-alt-th (fool around, goof off); SLOPPY; COMEDIC-th; ...

Be aware that some ASL words can be used with either OO, TH, another mouth morpheme, and/or without them (all with subtly different meanings). The following trios are some examples: CONCEITED, CONCEITED-oo and CONCEITED-th have slightly different meanings; AWKWARD (generic), AWKWARD-th (more of incompetent/lousy-related) and AWKWARD-oo (more of newbie-related); INSULT (more of generic/rude), INSULT-oo (more of disrespectful/shocked), INSULT-th (more of condescending); OVERLOOKED (generic as in "fail to notice", OVERLOOKED-th, OVERLOOKED-oo; ...

For ASL beginners and non-native signers, use generic mouth morphemes. Observe native ASL speakers how they use subtle mouthing in various contexts and become familiar with them. Don't use them to impress your signing skills or you'd look AWKWARD-th. :D

Related posts: mouth morpheme OO.

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.