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American Sign Language: "symbol"
SYMBOL (version 1)
The general sign for "symbol" is an initialized version of the sign for "show" (as in to demonstrate or reveal something). The sign is done by putting an "S"-hand onto the palm of the non-dominant flat hand and moving both hands forward a short distance (about 10 centimeters). This sign seems to be a loose noun/verb pair. If done with a single somewhat larger movement the sign takes on a meaning such as "symbolize," "symbolizes," or "to symbolize." A small double movement definitely means "symbol." However, in casual or high speed signing you may see the sign done with a single movement yet with the intended meaning of "symbol."
Someone may try to tell you that this sign is not ASL and is instead "Signed English" (with the underlying criticism that Signed English is "bad" or has cooties). I think it is possible to argue that this sign is indeed ASL. (The debate going like this: So, what you are saying is that since this sign uses an "S" handshape it is signed English? Oh, okay -- then I guess the signs for aunt, uncle, and the days of the week are all Signed English too?) The fact is, just because something is initialized doesn't automatically mean it is Signed English. Another fact is two different languages (or communication systems) can each use the same word (or sign).
While you "could" express the concept of "symbol" by using a combination of "context" and the sign for "SHOW" (and there are those who would additionally mouth the word "symbol") -- I would suggest however that in mixed language environments (such as a typical public high school class being attended by a Deaf student and his/her interpreter) it is quite effective to have a sign that "specifically" means symbol. Suppose the instructor says, "Show me an example of a symbol that represents what I'm trying to demonstrate."
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