In ASL, the meaning of a sentence isn't just determined by the manual signs; facial expressions and non-manual behaviors are also very important to understanding what a sentence means. It is crucial to incorporate appropriate facial expressions into ASL sentences; otherwise you won't be able to ask a question correctly!
The questions and statements in this unit are transcribed and discussed here so that you can begin to recognize the syntactic patterns and grammatical structures of ASL sentences.
English: "Are you married?"
ASL: YOU MARRIED YOU?
Comparing the English and ASL versions of the same sentence, it is easy to see a few differences. ASL does not use "to-be" verbs (these include: am, is, and are). As an English-speaker, you may find it hard to get used to not using these verbs, but they are simply not part of the vocabulary in ASL. In addition, ASL does not use articles like a/an or the. If you ever come across a sign for one of these words, you should know that it comes from signed English and not ASL.
This sentence is a yes/no question. Yes-no questions have a distinctive facial expression in ASL. Note that the signer has raised her eyebrows for the duration of the question; she also leans forward. You will also notice that, in this sentence, the person who is addressed (YOU) is referred to twice. The second instance of YOU is another example of a pronominal tag.
English: "Do you have children?"
ASL: HAVE CHILDREN YOU?
Again, since this is a yes/no question, the eyebrows are raised throughout. YOU, signed twice in the previous example, is only signed once here. Either strategy is okay.
English: "No. IÕm not married."
ASL: NO. NOT MARRIED ME.
Notice the signer's facial expression and non-manual behaviors which augment the negative signs of her sentence.
English: "No. I do not have any children."
ASL: NO. CHILDREN NONE ME.
An important thing to notice with this sentence is that when the signer indicates the negative answer to the question posed to her, she uses the sign NONE because she is talking about a quantity of something (in this case, children).