Eight months ago (wow, has it really been that long?) I made the first of what I hoped would be a series of posts related with American Sign Language (ASL) guidelines. You can view that blog entry here. I hope to expand on Axiom IX:
Axiom IX: The simplest way to manage personal pronouns is to point.
Axiom IX Footnote: To sign the general word “he,” point your finger in the air.
For the purposes of brevity and clarity, I will focus on the personal pronouns listed in the corresponding Wikipedia entry. And by looking at that table, I realized that my axiom was slightly incorrect. Not all personal pronouns are indicated with the index finger. If one is signing a possessive pronoun, e.g. my, yours, his, and her, it’s best to use the entire hand with the palm facing towards the correct entity. More specifically, the hand should be flat and look as if it is the sign for the letter “b” but without the thumb curling towards the center of the palm.
Example: You are signing the equivalent English sentence of “That book is yours” to a friend. A correct ASL depiction would begin with pointing to the “book entity” — pointing to the actual book if it is visible to both of you, or pointing to any non-previously indexed location if it is a “virtual” book, followed by the sign for book. Then, the “your” sign would follow, with your flat palm facing towards your friend. Add emphasis by pushing your hand forward slightly.
The words his, her, and their have similar signs, except the hand will be pointing towards wherever he, she, or they are located (indexed), respectively. And clearly, “my” or “mine” will be the reverse of “your.” Your flat hand should be pointing towards your chest, possibly touching it.
So when is the finger (I mean … using a finger) appropriate? Right now, I think it’s the exclusive sign for he, she, and it. That’s fewer examples than I thought, so the axiom definitely needs to be reworded. And things get even more complex when including the reflexive personal pronouns: myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself. For those signs, you would use a “thumbs-up” on the dominant hand. Direction still needs to be respected; “myself,” for instance, is signed by tapping the “thumbs-up” hand slightly on your chest.
Given that there are multiple ways to express personal pronouns, and that all of them deal with respecting the orientation of the targeted entity, I think the axiom should be reworded as:
Axiom IX: To manage personal pronouns, indicate the targeted entity by pointing your hand in the appropriate location. In general, use one of the index finger, a flat palm, or a thumbs-up.
The related footnote would accentuate the distinctions between the dominant hand using its index finger, a flat palm, or a thumbs-up.