Level: Linguistics

Sentence types in sign language

There are general types of purpose sentences: declarative sentence (statement), interrogative sentence (question), imperative sentence (command), and exclamatory sentence (exclamation).

Declarative sentences

Declarative sentences make statements, the most commonly used sentence type. They are used to state information, usually ending with a period in written English. These sentences are sometimes referred to as "positive" sentences to distinguish them from negative sentences.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me like his writing #style.

In ASL, the tone in statements is normal or generally neutral.

Negative sentences

Negative sentences express a negation. In ASL, use words such as NOT, NOT-YET, etc. and/or shaking head.

ASL sentence example in glosses: ix-me not like his writing #style.

Interrogative sentences

Interrogative sentences ask questions, including WH-questions and yes/no question. They end with a familiar question mark in English writing. In ASL, the eyebrows are burrowed for WH-questions; the eyebrows are raised for yes/no questions.

WH-question sentence example: [t]book[t] ix-ref1 ref1-give-ref2 \/done wg-q\/. English translation: Has she give him a book?

Yes/no question example: [t]book[t] you like-to read, you /\. English translation: Do you like to read books?

Rhetorical questions

A rhetorical question containing a WH-word is not a true question but it looks like one. It doesn't require an answer from a listener. Unlike the wh-questions that the eyebrows are burrowed, the eyebrows for a wh-word in rhetorical question are raised. E.g. IX-there KITCHEN, MY MOTHER IX1 KICK ME OUT WHY/\.. IX1 SECRETly MADE CAKE FOR MY BIRTHDAY.

Imperative sentences

Imperative sentences give commands or make requests. In ASL, MIND-NOT and PLEASE are a common usage.

ASL sentence example: DOOR/\ MIND-NOT/\ CL:OPEN-DOOR.

Exclamatory sentences

Exclamatory sentences express strong statements with emotion. In English writing, it ends with an exclamation mark. In ASL, tone is used (through facial expression and manual movement), just like vocal-aural speakers do in spoken language using sound.

ASL sentence example: IX1 WILL GET-IN-TROUBLE!

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