Today we are going to have a mini grammar lesson. I know – groan! However, just like learning English grammar , we need to have some basic understanding of how signs are created in order to replicate and use them.
All signs are made up of three parameters: handshape, location and movement. While all three parameters are very important, right now we are simply going to focus on the handshapes. In American Sign Language the handshapes consist of the fingerspelled alphabet and numbers. Any or all of these handshapes are used in a variety of ways within the language. However, all across the world (fact: there are more sign languages than spoken languages) the majority of signs use a set of basic handshapes: B A S C O 1 5. [If you are not familiar with what these handshapes look like, please click the link above.]
When signing with your baby/child you will find that they naturally form these handshapes and will automatically alter a sign you show them using one of these shapes. For example, the sign for “cat.” The proper sign is made using the “F” handshape and slightly brushing your cheek to indicate whiskers. LuLu, on the other hand uses a 1 hand hand shape and flicks her cheek. If we sign “cat” to her using the proper sign, she knows exactly what we mean and responds accordingly. However, her production is what is often referred to as a “baby sign.”
All children, regardless whether they are deaf or hearing will alter the signs to a handshape that is simple and easy. Once they have the dexterity to produce the same sign they see, they just do so naturally. Since baby signs are not intended to form a language, you can choose to either match your child or produce the correct sign. You may also find that as your child begins to develop more dexterity, they will slowly change their handshape to match yours. If your child does have a hearing impairment or you are teaching ASL as a second language, you will want to use the proper and baby sign just as you use proper English and mommy words.
I want to give a few more examples. In last weeks video lesson Lu demonstrated 4 signs that use the 5 handshape: Milk, Mom, Dad, Drink. The 5 handshape is an easy one because it does not require a high level of fine motor skills. However, in some kids they may use the 1 handshape for Mama & Dada by simply using their pointer finger to touch their chin and forehead.
Today’s lesson will consist of 4 commonly used signs: please, thank you, more and all done. The signs please and thank you are created using the “B” handshape. The sign more with a “o” handshape and all done with a “5” handshape.
**Lu was not being cooperative so Big Bro stepped in…I gotta figure out another way to capture her signs.**
If you already use baby signs with your child, try to identify some of the handshapes that your child is predominately using. Be sure to come back next week when I will talk about location.