Sign Can You  
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About Paul Greenberg, author of Sign Can You
Return to the Sign Can You Home Page About the Sign Can You ASL Instructional Book Purchase the Sign Can You Book and DVD




There are signs of time, space and mime,
role playing a distant chat,
painting pictures inside of pictures
inside of pictures inside of that,
and signs that are just signs.

How do you know the difference?

Relax. Feel the signs without naming them. Naming them is a way to get started, but naming a sign doesn’t necessarily get to its full meaning.

In all fairness, Sign is not just pictures. Abstractions fill our conversation. We discuss airy ethereal thoughts and feelings that don’t lend themselves to pictures. But while a sign is not necessarily a picture, it’s also not necessarily a one word English translation.

English is a linear language. One word follows another, each word having a well defined meaning, one step at a time. Add up the meanings of all the words to get the message.

Sign is not linear. Many things can happen simultaneously. Facial and body expression can add many layers of meaning to the simplest of signs. Where a sign is placed can add meaning. How fast a sign moves, and in what direction can add meaning. The sum total of a moment can easily add up to more than a one word English translation.

Relax. Learn the signs of Sign Can You well enough so they don’t need to be translated. Make them a part of you. There aren’t that many. There are 341 illustrations, excluding the alphabet and numbers. Seventeen illustrations are repeated, usually to make a point. This means we can subtract 17 from the illustrations to learn, leaving 324.

The situation is actually rosier. Some signs just make sense. Signs based on mime make sense as natural movements. Shapes make sense to us visually. Classifiers make sense as things moving through space.

The illustrations include 17 mime signs, 2 line shapes, 9 plane shapes, 2 cylinder shapes, 2 one finger classifiers, 4 five finger classifiers, 3 thumb classifiers and 6 two finger classifiers. Each group is based on one concept. The signs of each group essentially boil down to one sign. There are 8 groups totaling 45 illustrations, making a difference of 37. We can also subtract this from the illustrations to learn, leaving 287.

There’s more, or should we say less. There’s day, all day, morning, noon, afternoon and midnight; all based on one concept. We can subtract 5 from the illustrations to learn, leaving 282.

Also, there’s similarity of signs based on gender. Mother and father are alike. Husband and wife are alike. Daughter and son are alike. Brother and sister are alike. We can subtract one for each pair, leaving 278 illustrations to learn. We can also subtract one for child and children, and a few others, but we’ll stop at 277 illustrations to learn.

It’s not a big number, but it’s more than it appears. Synonyms add meaning and usefulness to each illustration. Noun/verb pairs expand the possibilities of some illustrations. Altering an illustration to create new meanings incorporates flexibility in a poetic sense. These features expand the 277 illustrations to include the 1325 word vocabulary of the “Sign Index.” It’s magic.

ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video
ASL sign illustration video









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