“Compounds,
Contractions and
Conjunctions
in American Sign
Language”
Brenda Aron
ASL Compounds
• ASL has several major ways of creating new
signs. One way is by compounding, this
process is also used in English but not in all
spoken languages.
• A compound is created by combining two
words or two signs (sometimes more)
separate signs so that they become like one
word or one sign with its own meaning:
English compounds: cupboard, blueprint etc.
ASL compounds: EAT^NOON, HOME^WORK
How Did This Occur?
• Changes over time, called assimilation where two signs
become one:
 BEAK ^ WINGS = BIRD;
 SUMMER^GROW = SPRING;
 BLACK^DARK = DARK
 MONEY^GIVE-TO = BUY
• Fluidity:
 FEMALE ^MARRY = WIFE;
 EARRING ^YELLOW = GOLD
 KNOW^CONTINUE = REMEMBER *also called anticipatory
assimilation as the first part of the sign has anticipated the
second part’s handshape and copied it.
How Did This Occur? Part 2
• The opposite is called perseverative assimilation
where the first part of the sign influences and
changes the second part of the sign:
RED ^CL: C (2h) for round + slice = TOMATO;
EAT^BED = HOME
• Reduction:
CL: (2h) index rectangular for outline + CL: (2h) S-5
ZAP for MICROWAVE (oven);
GIRL^SERVE = WAITRESS also gender deletion to
WAITPERSON
ASL Compound Nouns
• Compound Nouns: When noun is a person and
there is a related verb i.e., *AGENT
*made with two flat hands moving down the signer’s body
 A. TEACH^AGENT = TEACHER
 B. LEARN^AGENT = STUDENT
 C . PREACH^AGENT = PREACHER, MINISTER
 D. LEAD^AGENT = LEADER
 E. ACT^AGENT = ACTOR
 F. PLAY^AGENT = PLAYER
 G. WRITE^AGENT = WRITER
 H. SUPERVISE^AGENT = SUPERVISOR
ASL Compound Nouns Part 2
• Not all ASL nouns have related verbs ex:
MOTHER, DOCTOR, DENTIST, NURSE, BOSS,
POLICEMAN, PRINCIPAL, PRESIDENT, etc.
• Not all nouns and verbs with related meanings
have formationally-related signs in ASL
Ex: FISH vs. FISHING^AGENT = FISHER
AIRPLANE^AGENT = PILOT
Examples of Compounds in ASL
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BLUE ^CL: 5 on body for BRUISE
BED ^SOFT (sign made near head) = PILLOW
THINK^SAME-AS = just as if; it’s like; for example
FACE ^STRONG = closely resemble; bear a strong resemblance
FACE ^SAME-AS = look like, resemble
THINK^EASY = you think it’s a piece of cake?; you think you
are tough?
THINK^TOUCH = obsess, to dwell on
MONEY^BEHIND = money in reserve
TRUE ^WORK = really mean it, I am serious about it, I am not
kidding; it’s really important..
TALK^NAME = to talk about, mention
FOOD^BUY = to go food/grocery shopping
TOMORROW^MORNING "next day
ALWAYS^SAME "forever”
More ASL Compounds
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GOOD ^ENOUGH = just barely adequate
WRONG ^HAPPEN = accidentally; unexpectedly; coincidentally
SLEEP ^CLOTHING = pajamas, nightgown
SLEEP ^SUNRISE = oversleep; sleep in
MOTHER ^FATHER = parents
BROTHER ^SISTER = siblings
JESUS ^BOOK = Christian Bible
GOD ^BOOK = Bible (generic)
NEVER ^HEAR = never heard of such a thing!
FUNNY^NONE = that is no funny business; that is not funny
THINK^ALIKE "agree“
THINK^OPPOSITE "disagree“
SICK^SPREAD "epidemic"
Video Examples of ASL Compounds
• A. What are ASL Compounds
– Check youtube for my examples
ASL Compounds Sentence Practice
1. I jumped onto the bed thinking I was landing on my pillow
but it was a hard block of wood. Oh boy, have I got a
bruise on my arm!
2. People think Ann and I resemble each other. I disagree
however she and I do often think alike.
3. Joe said, “Stop obsessing about tomorrow’s math test, it
will be a breeze”. Ron retorted, “you think that is a piece
of cake?”
4. Jack mentioned to their friends and ribbing Ken about
seeing an UFO, Ken insisted, It is true I am not kidding. I
have pictures to prove it.
5. Bobbie plans to go grocery shopping the next day.
6. I was supposed to be at school at 8 am but overslept .
ASL Contractions
• As in English, contractions are a shortened
form of two words for example:
English: can and not = can’t, she is to she’s
• But the meaning of the contraction is NOT
different from the meaning of the two
separate words when they occur together.
• Contractions are usually considered an
informal version of the sign.
Listing of ASL Contractions
 Formal vs. Informal Compounds: are really contractions as the
meaning of the contraction is not different from the meaning of the
two separate words when they occur together.
 DON’T KNOW vs. DON’T v KNOW;
 DON’T WANT vs. DON’T v WANT;
 DON’T LIKE vs. DON’T v LIKE
 More examples:
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WHY NOT = WHY v NOT;
NOT HERE = NOT v HERE,
SEE NONE = SEE v NONE;
FEEL NONE = FEEL v NOTHING;
HEAR NONE = HEAR v NOTHING
HOW MUCH (S throw into 5 palm up)
NOT HAVE-TO (NOT-bent L palm out to flip down)
More ASL Contractions
• Some contractions are abbreviations of the
signs. i.e.,
DO-DO? (What are you doing, or what will you
do? )
FOR-FOR? (Whatever-for?, What is the meaning of
this? or Why? )
THREE-OF-US (group numbering up to 5)
Video Example of ASL Contractions
• A. ASL Contractions
• See youtube for Brenda’s examples
ASL Contraction Sentence Practice
1. I don’t know which you want, vanilla or chocolate ice
cream.
2. You said you don’t like either so what do you want?
3. Oh you don’t like and don’t want ice cream. Ok, got it.
4. Why don’t we sit here at the park.
5. John, oh, he is not here. I have not seen him yet.
6. When I fell and broke my arm, I didn’t feel any pain.
7. I haven’t heard if Carlos passed his driver’s test.
8. How much are those oranges?
9. I don’t have to take a science class in the Spring, yay!
10. The three of us are going to Sue’s bridal shop tonight.
Why? Oh, we are shopping for our prom dresses.
Conjunctions
• One of the features ASL shares with English is
the use of conjunctions to join simple
sentences. Many students can’t stop signing in
English word order because they feel
“wedded” to these conjunctions:
• i.e. and, but, because, although, however etc.
• Most of these are not ASL signs. ASL
conjunctions are like those listed in the next
slide.
ASL Conjunctions
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WRONG (without warning, suddenly)
FRUSTRATE (to be prevented from)
HIT (unexpectedly, turned out that)
FIND (find out that)
HAPPEN (happened that)
WRONG [movement – Y twisted] (plans being
messed up)
• FINISH (then, completed)
• THINK+APPEAR (remember, recall)
• “UNDERSTAND” (however, but, although)
ASL Conjunctions Part 2
• Other ways to show conjunctions in ASL:
Listing on the hand
Contrastive structure (shoulder move slightly l-r or
vice versa) * to denote “then”
* to denote “then; or; groupings of objects or people”
Ex: “Yesterday, I went skiing with Mary, John and Anna.”
“Last Saturday, we went to the petting zoo. My daughter
got to pet a baby monkey and a baby goat. “
ASL Conjunction Sentence Practice
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1. ME WALK WRONG RAIN
2. ME PLAN PARTY FIND HE CAN’T COME-HERE
3. HE GO-AWAY VACATION 1-WEEK, HIT LAID-UP SICK
4. ME CHAT HAPPEN H E-TELL-ME HE FROM BAKERSFIELD SAME-AS-ME
5. TONIGHT TWO-OF-US WANT SEE MOVIE FRUSTRATE CLOSE
6. SHE STINK DRAMA WRONG GOOD ACT
7. HE STRUGGLE-HARD ESTABLISH NEW BUSINESS HIT SKYROCKET BUSINESS
8. TWO-OF-THEM STEADY 6-MONTH WRONG TWO-OF-THEM MARRY
9. SHE RESEARCH #ASL HIT SHE FIND NEW RULE++
10. DEBBIE GO-THERE STORE BUY #TTY HAPPEN #TTY SALE
11. BABY SEEM SICK FIND BABY HAVE EAR INFECTION
12. CLOTHES PUT-IN WASHING-MACHINE FRUSTRATE CLOTHES RUIN
13. ME BUY NEW GLASSES WRONG GLASSES DAMAGE
14. TWO-OF-US CHAT FIND TWO-OF-US SAME HAVE DEAF SISTERS
15. ME WATCH #TV WRONG #TV VAGUE
16. PAUL DRIVE-THERE FRUSTRATE FRIEND NOT HOME
17. BECKY GET NEW #CAR EXCITED FRUSTRATE #CAR STEAL
18. ALAN WILL HELP JOHN UNDERSTAND JOHN MUST PAY-TO ALAN LUNCH.
ASL Conjunctions Sentence Practice
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I was reading the newspaper when out of the blue I remembered my
appointment.
Last week I bought 5 beautiful flowers but they all died.
For the last 6 months I hadn’t called my friend. Yesterday I called and
found out that she had moved to Nebraska.
In 1932, 300 Deaf people moved to Ohio.
Paul and Mary dated for 7 months when they broke up.
Last night I studied Lessons 6 & 7. Today I found out that the test was on
Lessons 8 & 9!
Two weeks ago I went to a basketball tournament and found out that it
was cancelled.
I was driving when suddenly a car came behind me and smashed into the
back of my car.
I was sitting outside when unexpectedly it started to rain.
Last year my grandfather died then my grandmother died two months
later.
I will go with you but I have to bring my kid brother along.
The four of us went shopping. I bought new running shoes, black slacks
and a plaid shirt.
Did you know Joe and Jean are twins?
Conjunctions
• See youtube for Brenda’s video examples of
conjunctions
Contact:
[email protected]
[email protected]
425-336-2514
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Compounds, Contractions and Conjunctions in American …