An ezine for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Issue 40  

 November, 2006   

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Hello ASL Heroes! 
I hope things are going well for you and yours.  My family and I enjoyed a quite Thanksgiving at home.  I played games with the kids.  Belinda baked a few pies.
The semester (at California State University, Sacramento) has flown by and now there's only a few weeks left prior to finals!  I'm only teaching 3/4 time this semester due to working on creating a new "ASL numbers" website that should be ready in January.  I'll announce in my next newsletter  the address for the new "numbers" website.
Have a great holiday season!

Dr. Bill's Fingerspelling CD

A while back an ASL student emailed me and asked if I'd put the receptive fingerspelling tool on a CD because she had a slow connection and she also wanted to be able to practice when she was away from an internet connection.
So I started putting a CD together and thought, "What the heck, I might as well include everything I've got on fingerspelling."  Heh. Didn't realize how much stuff I had until I gathered it all in the same place.  My wife calls me a packrat, now I realize that description applies to my websites too. So, if you like the fingerspelling testing page at "" -- you will probably love my Fingerspelling CD.  Since bandwidth isn't an issue when using the CD--the images of my hand are 400 pixels by 400 pixels, (almost twice as big as the images on the site).  Enjoy!

   $9.95 plus shipping and handling

Note: if the button above doesn't work, try pasting: into your browser.
Note: After you click "Buy" you can pay at the PayPal checkout register using any major credit card, you don't have to have a PayPal account.

In a message dated 11/24/2006 8:07:33 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, an ASL Hero writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars-
Would you mind sharing briefly what is included on the fingerspelling CD?
Thanks I appreciate it!!
Dear ASL Hero,
The Fingerspelling CD contains the many fingerspelling-related files I have developed over the years.
Here is a list of the main links on the front page of the CD:
► About Fingerspelling (discussion pages)
► Fingerspelled Alphabet 
► ABC Slider Tool
► Test my receptive fingerspelling skills
► How do you spell ____ ?
► Practice quizzes
► Spelling quizzes
► Animated Spelling quizzes
► Fingerseek (word search)
► Practice sheet
► Fingerspelling Font



In a message dated 11/1/2006 9:24:55 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, ClaudS@ writes:
Dr. Bill
I am new to American Sign Language. I find difficulty when signing reading new people until I get acclimated with their style of sign. It is as if they each have their own pronunciation. I find that I am being corrected on a frequent basis. Any suggestions on this matter?
Claud P. Stucke
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520

Hello Claud,
When a rocket ship is sent to the moon it undergoes thousands of minor course corrections before it reaches its destination. You will also need to undergo thousands of minor "sign" corrections prior to reaching your destination of being fluent in American Sign Language.
Each person signs a little differently. Plus there much variation of signing styles and vocabularies throughout America and the many other places in the world that use ASL. (As well as the many places that use signed languages other than ASL.)
So, the best suggestion I can offer you regarding "being corrected frequently" is: Get use to it.
The next best suggestion I can offer is: Be grateful for it.
If you have access to Deaf people who are willing to (or who go out of their way to) correct you, you are fortunate indeed. I say that because I have a keen awareness of the cost of ASL instruction. You see, the typical college student taking a three-credit-hour semester-long course ends up paying around $400 to $500 dollars when you include tuition, books, student fees, gas, wear and tear on their vehicle, incidentals (pencils, paper, blank video tapes, Scantron cards), and lab fees. The typical semester-long ASL course covers between 300 and 500 signs. So if you do the math, that means many students are paying $1 per sign.
So think of it this way, every time someone corrects your signing, imagine yourself as having just pocketed another dollar.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 9/18/2006 10:14:24 AM Pacific Daylight Time, a_mad_ferret@ writes:
I work at a sports bar.  Frequently a group of six young people (early 20s) come in. Of the six there
are three girls and three guys.  They all sign and the three guys lip read and are fluent in English.  At least one of the girls, Katie doesn't know English and cannot speak.  Since normally I take their table and sign with them communication goes quite easily.  However, the other day I was not at work and another server, Meghan waited on their table.  This server doesn't sign and was relying on the guys to translate for the ladies.  Because of the way the table was situated she couldn't face Katie and still face one of the guys who could read her lips and translate for Katie.  As a result she was forced to turn her back to Katie even when she wanted to speak with Katie so Tim could read her lips and sign.
Meghan was very concerned with offending the group (though for no reason they're a great bunch of kids) because she wasn't sure how to speak to Tim.  Her question, to which I had no answer is: If she wants to take Katie's drink order she has to turn her back to Katie and look at Tim.  Does she say to Tim "What would you like to drink?" or "What would Katie like to drink?"
Normally I would tell her to address the deaf individual as she would a hearing person, but because of the spatial situation I'm not really sure. 
Just curious if you have any insight.  But as I said they're a very nice group kids and I'm sure Meghan didn't offend them.
Thanks again,
In a casual situation like this it is flexible.  You won't offend anyone as long as it is obvious that you are sincere in your efforts to get the order right and that you are humble, friendly, and patient with the communication process.
For example, Meghan could have asked Tim, "What is Katie drinking?" and then write it down on the pad, and then turn to Katie and point to the written drink with eyebrows raised.  Then Katie could nod her head and smile to confirm that is really what she wanted.  That way Katie knows that Meghan is serious about getting her order straight. Certainly there were other ways Katie could have ordered.  She could have written her order, or mouthed it, or pointed to in on the menu. She chose to have Tim do it for her.
I don't see Tim's role in this situation as an "interpreter." I see him more as a "facilitator."
If it were an extended conversation and Tim were functioning in the role of an interpreter then, sure, you would speak to him as if you were talking directly to Katie.  But Katie wasn't applying for a job, nor was she having a conversation with Meghan.  Katie was just ordering a drink.
There are a hundred "right" ways to handle that situation.
Dr. V


In a message dated 9/26/2006 7:19:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time, an ASL researcher writes:
 I am pretty sure that I remember reading somewhere that in ASL the V handshape and the 5 handshape are not allowed to appear adjacent to each other within the same sign. (Sort of like how words of English aren't allowed to start with the sounds /pf/ next to each other even though that sound combination can start words in German, Greek, and other languages.)

It might also have been that they could be adjacent but either the order 5-V wasn't allowed or else the order V-5 wasn't allowed....  I'm
not sure.

Am I totally making this up (hope not...) or is this actually true?

Hello Sharon,
Regarding signs with both the V and 5 handshapes:
The sign for "GRADUATE-SCHOOL" (as in beyond a bachelors degree) uses both a V and a 5 handshape adjacent to each other. 
One variation of the sign "PROMISCUOUS WOMAN" uses a "bent-V" and "5" handshapes.
One version of the three "common" versions of the number 25 uses a "V" and a "5" handshape.
The sign 2/5 (two-fifths) uses a "V" and "5" handshape.
A version of the sign "VOWEL(s)" uses a "V" and "5."
It is arguable that one of the variations of the sign "FAIL" uses a "V" and "5"-(flat hand, loose, slight separation between fingers when done casually).
It is arguable that one variation of the sign "IMMERSION" uses a "bent-V" and 5"-(flat hand, loose, slight separation between fingers when done casually).
It is arguable that one variation of the sign "Climb a tree" uses a "bent-V" (classifier) and "5."
It is arguable that one variation of the sign "jump on a trampoline" uses a "V" (classifier) and 5.
It is arguable that one variation of the sign "fall from building, be caught by fireman's blanket" uses a "V" (classifier) and 5"-(flat hand).
It is arguable that one variation of the sign "Five on two mugging or pile-on" uses a "V" (classifier) and 5"-(flat hand).
So I dare say that If someone claims that a 5 and a V handshape can't be used together they are not fluent in ASL.
(Dr. V from

In a message dated 10/31/2006 5:36:30 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
I am wondering if there are any ASL instructors out there that have 
some advice on what system or assessment tool is used to grade their 
students?  I have been using the five parameters to grade Expressive 
prodcution in beginning level ASL I classes.  I have also used an 
adaptation of the SCPI to grade fluency in my ASL II class.  Is there 
any standardized rubric or assessment tool to grade hearing high 
school students learning ASL as a second language (Modern and 
Classical Language)?

melissa in Maine

I'll include your question in my next newsletter and see what turns up.

In a message dated 10/23/2006 3:52:05 PM Pacific Daylight Time, radius11@ writes:
Dr. Vicars,
I found a great deal of useful information at your site, but I am looking for something along the lines of a "word-a-day" email list comprised of signs from ASL.  Does such a beast exist, and if so might you know where?  If not, perhaps I should take it upon myself to create such a resource.
Thanks for your time.
Ray Waldo~
El Sobrante, CA
Sorry about the delay in responding.  I've thought for YEARS that such a resource would be excellent.   But haven't seen anything like it.
By all means, pursue it if you have time time and energy.


In a message dated 11/13/2006 1:06:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, smooney@ writes:

Dr. Vicars,
I am confused to know whether Iconic and Onomatopoeia are similar or are they differ in meaning? Your input would help greatly.

Here are the definitions of those two words:
1. the formation of a word, as cuckoo or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent. 
2. a word so formed. 
3. Rhetoric. the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical effect. 
<<Onomatopoeia. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved November 13, 2006, from website:>>
1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an icon. 
2. Art. (of statues, portraits, etc.) executed according to a convention or tradition. 
<<iconic. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved November 13, 2006, from website:>>
Notice that traditionally the term "onomatopoeia" is associated with sound whereas the term "iconic" is associated with sight.
If we expand our definition of the word onamatopoeia a bit and allow it to apply to things that are seen as well as things that are heard then I think a very strong case could be made for those two concepts being very similar.
--Dr. V

In a recent newsletter a reader mentioned the term "SORDO-MUTI" as a reference to individuals who are Deaf.
Below is a portion of an email I received from an ASL Hero named Lizzy.

In a message dated 11/2/2006 10:10:22 PM Pacific Standard Time, neebeeshaabookway@ writes:
Hey there, dear Bill....
That was very interesting about the Italians and the term, south Texas, and all through Mexico, at least eight years ago, sordos-mudos, is very common and there is no bad they use it to mean that they don't talk, so they can get down to business and freely just be themselves without being bothered by all the talkers expecting a more reactions out of them...and true most of these folks never do talk, IN public...yet, naturally to their friends, their are full of the mute-button-off, so to speak.........yet it is just a way for these folks to let others know that they do not communicate by voice, and they have no shame as to any terms....and why should they, for the most part they are very proud of who they are, and very open bold  people (i said most-part, as only those from abusive homes, or who have lived on the streets, have bad feelings as to their "position in the world of talkers", which is not good, depending on then preys on them) this then, can be very very sad as these full-deaf (mute too) that are alone, and cut off from friends, are sold into a type of slavery, and it is very very ugly, and terrible....there has recently been stories from folks from Mexico, facing such things, and even here in America...

 As you know, there was even more to your email.  I've posted some of it above because your points and observations are just too good to not be shared.


In a message dated 11/16/2006 2:03:23 PM Pacific Standard Time, Fred, a deaf ASL instructor writes:
[Regarding] the "new" signs for countries and nationalities... I knew a Korean Deaf woman in Florida, who proudly signed
her nationality with the "K" on her eye. She didn't want to use that new sign, because she never worked in a rice paddy, so had no connection with the sign for the pointy hat! She felt that grouping Koreans as rice-paddy workers is offensive to her. What I'm trying to say here is that, WE might see some of those older signs as offensive, but do THEY?  -That's what's important, in my view.  I know, just because a black homeboy calls himself
"Nigger," doesn't give me the right to!  But really, some of my Native American friends still prefer the "feather-head" sign for themselves. And a Polish friend has no qualms about thumbing his nose for HIS nationality.
Same thing with Chinese. Not all of them consider themselves Maoists! The new sign for Japan looks to me, almost like an obscene gesture!

I also have a couple friends who use SEE2, and they insist that our sign for "Deaf" is insulting, because the Deaf are NOT really mute!  This is a kind of controversial topic, I know. But there has to be a good answer to it. They don't want to accept my explanation that you say "ears closed" is the old sign, nor my point that "ears closed" is more offensive to us as Deafies, than the finger on cheek sign.

More stuff to ponder...!

Best wishes,
Fred Lulling

In a message dated 11/17/2006 12:32:43 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, chn@ up in Canada writes:
How do you spell a space between words when finger spelling?  Or do you just pause?  IE: Ilovecats = I love cats.
(I really do, I have had my oldest cat half my life - yes she really is 30 in human years - tragically she now has cancer of the jaw, and I'm palliating her by spoon feeding her, giving meds and drip IV
)   Are any periods or commas etc., ever used in signing?
Dear Cat Lover,
To indicate a space between fingerspelled words, you simply insert a very small pause between letters.
Skilled ASL signers rarely spell more than two words in a row. We use fingerspelling around 7 or 8 percent of the time while communicating.  In the vast majority of cases the fingerspelling is for isolated words, not strings of words.  Beginners often worry about how to spell several words in a row because they rely so heavily on spelling, but those who are conversationally fluent it is not an issue. While ASL does have signs for period, comma, and related punctuation, we only use those signs during English class or for discussions about English.  We do not use separate signs to punctuate our sentences.  Instead we punctuate our sentences with pauses, facial expressions, head-tilts, shoulder raises, and other non-manual markers (body language).


In a message dated 10/9/2006 4:10:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hello Dr. Vicars,
My name is Mandi Long.  I'm the hearing mother of an 11 year old Deaf son.  
I found your web site today and am really looking forward to using it to improve my ASL skills.  I am writing to you in hopes that you may have some advice or point me to a resource.  I am desperately trying to find help with my son's reading.  I know that it can be a challenge to teach Deaf to read but I know that there must be help out there,  I just don't know where.  My son attends Arizona School for the Deaf in Tucson, AZ. I feel that they are failing him miserably but I don't know where to go to get help.  (The school isn't receptive to my concerns)  I do what I can at home but I am ill-equipped to teach anyone how to read, let alone a Deaf child!  I know this isn't what your site is about but I am always excited to find Deaf people who might have the info I need.  Any advice or info would be greatly appreciated!
Mandi Long
P.S.  Thanks for the great ASL site!!
Hello Mandy,
What works best for one child won't work at all for another. As you know, literacy is a broad and deep topic. As a parent the best thing you can do is to become educated on many approaches (to Deaf literacy) then spend large amounts of time communicating with your son about everything.  Interactive dialog and discussions about a variety of topics will help develop his general cognitive abilities.  By expanding his cognitive base (the things he knows about the world and his ability to make associations between those bits of knowledge) you will provide him a foundation from which to build strong reading skills.

Here are some textbooks I recommend you seek out and study:
Knight, P., & Swanwick, R. (1999). The care and education of a deaf child a book for parents (Parents' and teachers' guides: Parents' and teachers' guides No. no. 4). Clevedon, England, Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.
Johns, J. L., & Lenski, S. D. (1997). Improving reading a handbook of strategies (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.
Paul, P. V. (2001).  Language and deafness  (3rd ed.). San Diego: Singular Thomson Learning.

Schirmer, B. R. (1994). Language and literacy development in children who are deaf. New York, Toronto, New York: Merrill. Maxwell Macmillan Canada. Maxwell Macmillan International.

Those texts will help you become knowledgeable regarding Deaf Literacy, but all the knowledge in the world will not help unless there is passion for reading.  Take him to a bookstore and let him know you will be there for an hour and ask him to look around and find a few books or magazines that he might be interested in you purchasing for him.  Make sure to point out the comic book section, the sports magazines, the gamer magazines, etc.
Then, whatever he selects, (within reason) buy a few different books or magazines of that type.  If money is an issue (and for most of us it usually is) this same activity can be conducted at your local library instead of a bookstore.  Or combine the approach. Do both.  The goal is to find material in which he is personally interested. If you tie into what he is passionate about, you will see his reading ability soar.  One of the best (deaf) readers I know got his start by reading about airplanes.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 11/29/2006 12:00:01 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, oh_no_i_ate_nemo@ writes:
Hello Dr. BIll,
I'm taking ASL this year and we were looking for a sign for "brunch" and couldn't find one. If you could please help me with that I would appreciate it.
Ashley Sorgman 
You are not likely to find much consistency regarding a sign for BRUNCH.
*  Many will simply fingerspell it.  If spelled often enough in the same conversation it is likely to become somewhat lexicalized.  For example the "C" will mutate to be done with just the thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
*  Many will explain what the meaning.  For example:  EAT
*  Some might sign:  EAT mid-MORNING (by doing the sign "morning" a bit higher up in the air, using a small up and down movement, and an "approximately/maybe" facial expression).


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