Classifier handshapes in sign language

A list below outlines some examples of how classifier handshapes can be used in American Sign Language (ASL). These examples are only a small scratch of countless uses of classifiers.

classifiers in sign language
Image by Jolanta Lapiak.

Note that you should name a noun first before using its classifier in sentences. Also, remember that many ASL signs have a classifier-like handshape but they are not classifiers per se.

classifier 1
CL:1

CL:1 - The classifier of this index finger handshape (CL1) may represent a thin and/or long object or a person, such as a person, a twig, a pole, a pen, a stick, etc.

CL:2 - two persons standing or walking side by side (CL:2 up), one person standing (CL:2 down), person lying down, eye gaze ...

ASL classifier 2
CL:2-claw

The 2-claw handshape in its horizontal position (not upright unless the object is upside down) can represent a group of things such as an animal, a chair, a toilet, a rocking chair, a sitting person, etc.

CL:3 - vehicle (horizontal orientation), three persons standing or walking...

CL:4 - lines, ...

CL:5 - a large number of people, animals, or things.

CL:A - a statue...

CL:B- (thumb not inside like the handshape B but closed together with fingers, thumb sometimes open, sometimes inside) - book, table, desk, surface, wall, door, window, picture, car (in some contexts), bookcase shelf, paper, foot ...

Again, the palm orientation is also considered. E.g. The "B" classifier handshape with its palm orientation facing down is used to represent such objects as a paper, a table, a bed, etc. With the upright handshape, it can be referred to a picture, a wall, etc.

CL:C - container, cup, vase, ...

CL:F - coin, stain, button, dot, eye gaze...

CL:G - wood stick, size of something (e.g. a pile of papers) ..

CL:I - thin line, high heel ...

CL:L - a frame, a picture ...

CL:L-bent - lake, plate...

CL:O - cylindrical pipe, hose, ...

CL:S - head

CL:U - ribbon, tongue, strip of paper, ...

CL:Y - fat animal or person, thick tires of a fancy sports car, big yawn, ...

Words (signs) and classifiers

"Is the ASL sign STAND a classifier?"

No. The handshape of the ASL word STAND may derive from a classifier. But, the sign itself is not a classifier.

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Related posts

Related post: an introduction to classifiers in ASL.

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