Numeral Incorporation in sign language

Numeral incorporation is a morphological process, in which a number is incorporated into a handshape, a classifier, or a pronoun of a sign.

Let's look at an example of two+day and two-day. Notice the difference between these two glosses? The former has a plus symbol which means two ASL signs and the latter has a minus symbol which means one sign (despite two English words for the sake of glossing).

The sign two+day has two separate signs (two morphemes): TWO and DAY.

Numeral incorporation occurs when one incorporates a number into the sign DAY. It becomes one sign, but it has two meaningful parts (morphemes). The numeral part is a "bound morpheme."

Numeral incorporation with noun

The ASL word hour is a regular noun as shown above.

The sign HOUR can be incorporated into a number from one through nine. Beyond ten, one has to sign two separate signs NUMBER and HOUR.

As a basic rule, numeral incorporation can only work up to 9 numbers. Beyond number 10, use the regular separate signs such as 12+MONTH.

Numeral incorporation can work with the following ASL signs from one through nine (from one through five in a few categories): MINUTE, HOUR, DAY, WEEK, MONTH, O'CLOCK, and so on.

Numeral incorporation with classifier

ASL numeral incorporation ASL numeral incorporation

[L] the upright 1-handshape classifier may represent a standing person, pen, stick or another. By changing this handshape to "2" or "V", this classifier then can represent two persons (standing), two sticks (horizontal orientation), and so on.

Numeral incorporation with pronoun

ASL numeral incorporation ASL numeral incorporation

The images above illustrate ASL pronouns you and I/me respectively, which can be interpreted as you and me/I. They can be incorporated with a manual number as shown below.

ASL numeral incorporation

Instead of signing you me/I, the signer can incorporate the manual number two into the handshape to create a V- or 2-handshape. It means the same as "you and me/I", "both of us", or "the two of us".

Related posts

Related topic: The Rule of 9

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.

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.)

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.