MOTHER in sign language

"How do you say 'mother' in American Sign Language?" There is a couple of variations. Plus, watch a video of the kid naturally acquiring the ASL word.

Definition: A woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.

Pronunciation/articulation: Thumb of dominant "5" hand taps twice on the lower cheek near the mouth. The palm is loosely facing left if right-handed.

This signword is generally translated into "mother" in English, and sometimes "mom".

Pronunciation/articulation: Fingers of the dominant "5" handshape flutter with the thumb on the side of lower cheek near the mouth.

This signword is generally translated into "mother" only in English, not "mom". This sign is used with some particular compound signs or some particular contexts or meanings, such as MOTHER EARTH.

Sometimes, like hearing people using other terms than "mother", Deaf people also have other signs, such as MOMMY or MUM.


Related signs: FAMILY, MOTHER-IN-LAW, MOTHER's DAY, GRANDMOTHER, biological mother.

Opposite: FATHER.

Baby Signing MOTHER

First, it's inappropirate to use terms, "baby signs" or "baby sign language" which is cultural-linguistic appropriation. We deaf people have faced hearing oppression of various forms from cultural appropriation to linguicism and audism for a very long time.

Linguistics, neuroscience, and many scientific studies, as well as my documentation of language acquisition in sign language have shown that signed and spoken language are on the same timeline. Language is amodal (Petitto's works).

The time-lapse video of phonological acquisition shows how the baby "Juli" acquires the sign "MOTHER" naturally with some details in a native ASL-signing environment ("mother finger" as opposed to "mother tongue") as an example.

Even though the "5" handshape is one of few unmarked handshapes in the 50+ chart, thumb is one of some difficult phonological aspects in sign language at early age (during the first two years from birth).

The "1" handshape is also one of the unmarked handshapes. She began with this handshape, then "A", and finally then "5" with the thumb in contact. Signing hearing and deaf children may process in their own ways. For example, another ASL-speaking toddler of Deaf parent used the "5" handshape with the palm in contact with the cheek before the thumb is used.

In term of the movement, the infant Juli started with what is appeared to be the movement away from the face rather than toward the face. See the difference between age 1;2 and 1;5 (both same handshapes but different movement).

Though, many Deaf ASLian parents may use the handshape "1" for (what is equivalent to English as) MOMMY or "mum" with their kids. Instead, the mother used the regular ASL sign ("5" handshape) all the way; watching Juli's development had been interesting.

In case you're wondering what she signed at the end of this video. She uttered in ASL, "MAKE HEART FOR MOTHER". Notice the handshape error for HEART ("6" handshape instead of the correct "open 8").

Signing at age 4 in the video above with the, aww, mouthing "mama". The signword MOTHER must be her all-time favorite. :D See how her little eyes twinkled.

First 100 words.

  1. again
  2. also
  3. ask
  4. because
  5. boy
  6. but
  7. can
  8. come
  9. condone
  10. deaf
  11. different
  12. drink
  13. drive
  14. eat
  15. email
  16. family
  17. feel
  18. few
  19. find
  20. fine
  21. fingerspell
  22. finish
  23. food
  24. for
  25. forget
  26. friend
  27. get
  28. girl
  29. give
  30. go
  31. good
  32. have
  33. he
  34. hearing
  35. hello
  36. help
  37. home
  38. how
  39. Internet
  40. know
  41. later
  42. like (feeling)
  43. little
  44. live
  45. man
  46. many
  47. me
  48. meet
  49. more
  50. my
  51. name
  52. need
  53. new
  54. no
  55. not
  56. now
  57. ok, okay
  58. old
  59. other
  60. please
  61. remember
  62. same
  63. say
  64. school
  65. see
  66. she
  67. should
  68. sign, signed word
  69. slow
  70. some
  71. sorry
  72. store
  73. take
  74. tell
  75. text, sms
  76. thank, thank you
  77. their
  78. they
  79. think
  80. time
  81. tired
  82. try
  83. understand
  84. use
  85. wait
  86. want
  87. what
  88. when
  89. where
  90. which
  91. who
  92. why
  93. will
  94. with
  95. woman
  96. work
  97. write
  98. yes
  99. you
  100. your

As you feel more comfortable with the first few hundreds of ASL signs, progress further with your vocabulary and learn signing more.