How to Ask Questions in American Sign Language
When you want to ask a question in American Sign Language (ASL), you simply sign the question word at the end of the sentence — words such as who, what, when, where, which, why, and how.
After you sign your question, as a rule, you sign the manual question mark repeatedly.
You also have the option of placing the question mark at the beginning of the sentence.
As you sign the question word, lean forward a little, look inquisitive, scrunch your eyebrows together, and tilt your head to one side. Your dominant hand — the one that you write with — does the action.
You sign these inquiry words at the beginning or at the end of a sentence:
Who? With your dominatn hand, place your thumb on your chin and let your index finger wiggle from the joint. The other three fingers curl under.
What? Put your hands outward in front of you, with elbows bent and palms up. Shake your hands back and forth towards each other.
Where? Hold up the index finger of your dominant hand, like you’re indicating “one,” then shake it side to side.
When? Put both of your index fingers together at a 90-degree angle at the tips. Your dominant index finger then makes a full circle around the passive index finger and returns to the starting position.
Which? Make both hands into fists with your thumbs pointing up; alternate each fist in an up-and-down movement.
Why? Touch the side of your forehead with the fingers of your dominant hand, extend your thumb and pinky (in the Y sign) while you bring your hand down, middle three fingers in, to chest level.
How? With fingers pointing downward and backs of fingers and knuckles touching, roll hands inward to your chest and up so that the pinky sides of your hands are touching.
Check out the following examples of short questions:
English: Who is going?
Sign: GOING WHO Q
English: What do you mean?
Sign: MEAN WHAT Q (The word “you” is implied because you’re talking to that person already.)