The emergence of ASL conjunctions

Each language, whether signed or spoken, has its conjunctions. ASL has some conjunctions, such as finish (very common), then, also or sometimes and, but, and so on.

Most rhetorical question terms (e.g. "how", "why", "when") with raised eyebrows are also conjunctions in ASL. Similarly, you can find a conjunction "when" in English. And, "because" is another conjunction in English.

Now the preschooler Juli had used ASL conjunctions that connect two phrases or simple sentences. For example, a few weeks ago Juli signed: eat then #tv.

Lately, Juli had used the ASL conjunction then several times. For example, one morning this week, Juli had a plan and talked about the future tense: (ix-me) eat yogurt finish then father come-here.

In this sentence, Juli clearly used a conjunction. Either of the ASL words finish and/or then in this sentence and context can function as a conjunction (possibly a double conjunction), but it's for ASL linguists to determine.

Juli has used and as in phrase, but not in conjunction. For example, ix-me want apple and ipad.

The emergence of ASL "because"

There are two different words for the concept of "why" in English: "because" (as a conjunction) and "why" (in a question). However, in ASL, the sign for the English words "because" and "why" is the same but has different intotation for a sentence type.

That is, the ASL sign why-conj (an equivalent to English as because is accompanied with the raised eyebrows, whereas why-q in a question is accompanied with burrowed eyebrows.

At this stage, three-year-old Juli didn't use facial intonation to indicate a question or a conjunction in a statement. However, she used why-conj in sentences. (see video)

In the next weeks (from age 3;2), Juli was seen using "because" or why-conj. For example, at age 3;3, Juli suddenly told me as I was sitting down for our dinner. She signed, ix rabbit cried! ("The rabbit was crying.") I asked, "Why?" She explained, because hurt.

Another, Juli and I got off our car on the grocery's parking lot, we saw a firefighter crew having a car wash fundraising event on the lot. Juli looked for a moment and uttered in ASL ix-det firefighter wash car rh-why car dirty.

Juli had used why-conj (or "because") from time to time. However, I hadn't seen Juli using this ASL sign in a question. However, I had seen Juli using "who?" though seldomly.

At 3;7, she continued to use this conjunction. E.g. ix-me need more water ix(in) pitcher why(because) water run-out.

Enter a keyword in the field box below to search or filter the new topic list and click on the link.

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.