Level: Linguistics

Syntax: sentence structure and grammar in sign language

In linguistics, syntax is the study of sentence structure in a language. It inspects how words combine to form phrases, clauses, and sentences that are governed by the rules. Every language has its own syntax or rules of word order and grammar in sentence.

Basic sentence structure

Sentence structure is how all the parts of a sentence fit together, such as subject, predicate, direct object, indirect object. A sentence generally requires at least a verb and a subject, sometimes except for a command. A verb is an action and a subject is the noun that does the action. Some sentences can add objects.

Two most basic parts of a sentence are the subject and predicate.

Other parts include: Nouns, verbs, predicates, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, determiners, pronouns, and conjunctions.

Types of sentence structure

Types of sentence structures include simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.



Topicalization is also commonly used in ASL. It expresses as a TOPIC + COMMENT. On a sentence level, it uses the OSV structure (Object/\ + SUBJECT ACTION). E.g. /\BOOK/\ IX1 KISS-FIST READING.

Grammar rules

Grammatical agreement. E.g. IX1 MEET-me, where the verb MEET is inflected to agree with the subject and/or the object in a sentence.


Related posts

sentence structure and sentence types.

You may also be interested in topicalization: topic-comment structure.

Noun-verb pairs.

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New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.