How to Use Conjunctions in American Sign Language
As you probably remember from grammar classes of long ago, conjunctions join thoughts or phrases. American Sign Language (ASL) includes conjunctions, which you can use to sign about related ideas.
Signing the conjunction “but”
In both English and ASL, but has two different meanings:
Conjunction: Used to set a condition, as in, “You can go to the party, but you have to be home at midnight.”
To sign but as a conjunction (meaning that a condition is involved), put your dominant hand on the dominant side of your head and flick your index finger twice, ending with your index finger up.
Preposition: Shows an exception, as in, “Everyone can go but you.”
To sign but as a preposition (meaning except), cross your index fingers to make an “x” and then pull them apart, ending with your two fingers extended.
The following examples show you both situations:
English: Go to the party, but be home at midnight.
Sign: PARTY GO — BUT HOME MIDNIGHT — MUST YOU
English: Everyone can go but you.
Sign: ALL GO CAN — BUT YOU NOT
Signing “either/or,” “neither/nor”
The either/or and neither/nor conjunctions are called correlative conjunctions, and you use your hands and head to convey these signs.
When signing EITHER . . . OR and NEITHER . . . NOR, keep in mind that you use these conjunctions to answer questions, not to ask them. So, you don’t use the facial expressions you use to ask questions:
Either: You can keep your head still or nod it “yes” for affirmation when you sign EITHER.
Neither: You shake your head from side to side while signing NEITHER.
These sentences show the difference between signing EITHER and NEITHER:
English: Do you want apples or oranges?
Sign: APPLES ORANGES — WANT YOU — WHICH
English response: Either apples or oranges would be fine.
Sign response: EITHER FINE
English: Do you want chicken or steak?
Sign: CHICKEN STEAK — WANT YOU — WHICH
English response: I want neither chicken nor steak.
Sign Response: NEITHER