In this word entry, learn how to sign "boy" in ASL (vocabulary), see how an ASL-speaking child acquires the signed word (phonological development), and how the sign "boy" formed (etymology).
How do you say 'boy' in American Sign Language?
Definition: A male child or young man.
The origin of this onomatopoeic sign came from a grasp of the brim of the cap in the old days.
Pronunciation/articulation: Fingertips of dominant "flat O" handshape (palm orientation facing the left side if right-handed) taps with thumb twice in front of the forehead.
Origin/etymology: "A sign borrowed from French sign language which originated in olden days, when boys wore 'caps' as part of their standard school uniforms." -- Lyn J. Wiley via email, May 2015.
Related signs: MAN, CHILD, KID
Watch the time-lapse video how the bilingual ASL-speaking kid of Deaf parents acquires the ASL sign BOY in early language development from baby to preschool age.
The "O" handshape is one of few unmarked handshapes in 50+ handshape prime chart in ASL. Because the handshape is unmarked thus natural, it's possible for the child to form the handshape without handshape error. An ASL-speaking baby may use the unmarked handshape "20" in their phonological process before forming the correct handshape. Each child develops at different pace.
In the video at 1:3, notice that the baby self-corrects the location of the ASL sign. At age 1;7, it looks like she's checking out a boy, asking mom (translated from ASL as) "Who is this boy over there?" Ha, kidding.
Note that "baby sign language" is harmful cultural appropriation. There are no such "baby signs" as much as you don't call English "baby English" nor "baby speech". Parentese, older known as motherese is commonly used in both spoken language and signed language throughout the world. Baby sign language is one of some manifestations of oppression of our Deaf people and our signed languages. Deaf children have been forbidden from signing their very own natural (signed) languages during the critical development of language in name of speech.
BOY signed by a four-year-old.
First 100 words.
As you feel more comfortable with the first few hundreds of ASL signs, progress further with your vocabulary and learn signing more.