ASL Sentence Structure

Common Sentence Structures Part 1

 

Common Sentence Structures Part 2

Sentence Structure

Remember when you are creating sentences that you must write the English and the ASL gloss (capital letters)

1. Simple Sentence

  • Description: In short statements, the order of the signs is variable unless there is an actor and a receiver.
  • Non-manuals: Match what you are saying. If you are signing about someone who is upset, you should show the degree to which the person is upset on your face. If they are happy, you should show that on your face.

2. Negation

  • Description: You can negate any sentence by placing a negative sign before the verb or by first describing a topic and then signing the appropriate negative sign or giving a negative head shake.
  • Non-manuals: Must use the non-manuals for the sentence type as well as a negative head shake or a negative. It is good practice to use the negative head shake, but is not always necessary.

3. Simple Yes/No Question

  • Description: In short sentences that ask a yes/no question, the order of the signs is variable, but the signs alone do not ask the question. The signer must use the correct non-manual signals throughout the question.
  • Non-manuals: Eye contact with addressee, raised eyebrows, and head tilted forward.

4. Topic, Comment

  • Description: State the topic and then talk about it. When using a time adverb/tense, place the time adverb at or near the beginning of a sentence.
  • Non-manuals: Maintain eye contact with the person being addressed, raise your eyebrows and slightly tilt your head forward when signing the topic, hold the last sign of the topic a little longer than the other signs, and pause slightly between signing the topic and the comment.

5. Topic, Question

  • Description: First describe the topic and then place the sign that is asking the question at or near the end of the sentence.
  • Non-manuals: Usually fall on the last sign or phrase, eye contact with addressee, raised eyebrows, and head tilted forward.

6. Conditional Sentences

  • Description: The conditional clause must always be at the beginning of the sentence and must clearly describe the condition. The outcome of the condition must always be in the second part of the sentence and can be a question, statement, or command. #IF can be used interchangeably with SUPPOSE, but is often used to give greater emphasis to a condition. #IF or SUPPOSE can be omitted because the non-manuals are used and provide the same meaning.
  • Non-manuals: Raise eyebrows, tilt head, and hold the last sign of the first clause.

7. Rhetorical Question

  • Description: When a signer asks a question and then answers it. There is no expectation that someone else will answer the questions. Often use wh-questions such as WHY and HOW. A proper translation to English will seldom include a direct reference to these signs. WHY is often translated “because” and “yes” is usually omitted.
  • Non-manuals: Eye contact with the addressee, raise eyebrows, tilt head forward, and hold the last sign of the rhetorical question before answering it.

8. Wh-Question

  • Description: A question that requests information using a wh-sign (who, what, where, when, why, how, how-much/many. When the question is shorter, non-manuals are used on the whole question. When the question is longer, the non-manuals are used on the phrase or sign asking the question. The wh-sign is often placed at the end of the sentence though not always.
  • Non-manuals: Eye contact with addressee, squeeze the eyebrows together, and head tilted forward.

9. Info-Seeking Question

  • Description: A question that requests information using an implied wh-sign (who, what, where, when, why, how, how-much/many, but does not use the wh-sign. When the question is shorter, non-manuals are used on the whole question. When the question is longer, the non-manuals are used on the phrase or sign asking the question. The wh-sign is often placed at the end of the sentence though not always.
  • Non-manuals: Eye contact with addressee, squeeze the eyebrows together, and head tilted forward.

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