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American Sign Language: "the"


The purpose of the word "the" is usually to identify or specify a particular noun.  ASL has a variety of ways to specify nouns and/or to identify particular nouns.

ASL doesn't use a specific sign for the word "the."  The right way to express the concept of "the" in ASL depends on your meaning. 

Note: Signed English does have a specific sign for "THE" but that sign is not commonly used by adult native Deaf signers. 

Here I'll share with you some of the more common ASL methods of specifying nouns or referring to particular nouns.
 



INDEXING / pointing: IT / HE / SHE / THERE / "the one that is right there" 



THERE: "that one there"

On first reference it helps to glance briefly at the object or place while pointing at it (if it is in view).


Also see: INDEXING
Also see: THIS


Notes:
A student asks:   "When asking for the title of a book or movie in ASL and the word "The" is part of the title, do you just skip that when giving the title? Example: The Nancy Drew Series. It seems like it would be funny to omit the "The." Do you sign T-H-E C-H-R-O-N-I-C-L-E-S O-F... with fingerspelling?"

Dear _______,
When considering how to sign "the" you need to consider your context. Often when referring to the title of a book or movie you are specifically referring to the English title of that book or movie to first establish your context and then later on second and future references to that title you will just use the ASL signs that most closely represent the general idea of the title.  Often what we do the first time we introduce a title as new topic in our conversation is we use the QUOTE sign (which also happens to mean TITLE) and then spell T-H-E and then do the rest of the full title using signs or a combination of spelling or signs.  Or you might even see people use the signed English sign for THE which holds up a "T" hand (palm toward the non-dominant side) and then twists palm forward as it slides a couple inches toward the dominant side.

Two people discussing Harry Potter and Nancy Drew stories might upon first reference spell out the titles fully and then for the rest of the conversation just spell HP and/or ND.
Cordially,
Dr. Bill



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