General Interpreting Skill Development:
Improving Spatial Structuring - Classifier Use
This guide enhances general interpreting skills by providing activities to improve spatial structuring through the use of classifiers. Resources that include ASL and English narratives are provided below.
Classifiers fall into a variety of classes. According to the Signing Naturally (2014) curriculum, published by Dawn Sign Press, there are eight:
- Semantic Classifier,
- Descriptive Classifier,
- Instrument Classifier,
- Element Classifiers,
- Locative Classifier,
- Body Classifier,
- Body Part Classifier, and
- Plural Classifier.
Semantic classifiers are proforms that function as "pronoun" that replaces a noun (or as noun and verb combined).
Some examples of semantic classifiers are: cl-1 (e.g. a person), cl-2 (e.g. two persons), cl-2-upsidedown (a standing person), cl-2bent (e.g. an animal), etc.
Descriptive classifiers are used to describe shape, size, texture, or a pattern of a noun.
Examples include stripes on a shirt, width or narrowness of a corridor, shape, length and thickness of a mustache, surface of a road that is under repair, etc.
The handshapes of instrument classifiers describe how an object is handled.
Examples include using a tool, holding a book, cutting with a knife, pushing a button, buttoning a shirt, lifting a jar lid, pulling a nail, removing a book from a shelf, etc.
These classifiers use both the handshapes and movements to describe the property and movement of the elements of fire, water, and air.
Examples could include showing a fire raging across a vast amount of land or engulfing an entire house.
Two types of locative classifiers are 1) location and 2) pathline.
Locative classifier is used to indicate a location of something, or the position relative to another. It is also used as a pathline of the object and its movement and/or distance.
For example, the relationship of a house to the garage would show location, and the path from the opening of the garage door to the backdoor of the house would show the pathline. Or, if a particular book is located on the third shelf down, fifth book over from the left, of a five-shelf bookcase, the path from the bookcase top shelf down to the third shelf, and over from the left to the right by five books to show the specific location of the book would be the pathway.
Body classifier uses a direct contact with most of the upper frontal part of the body to refer to a part of the body.
For example, hands "holding a person", tapping on a person's back or shoulder, or, a person nodding their head to show someone nodding their head.
Body Part Classifier
Body part classifier is a symbol that refers to a part of the body beyond the frame of the signing area -- e.g. legs, back, feet, etc.
For example, you utter the ASL word #foot and then use its classifier (e.g. the passive hand) to represent the foot. Or, you would use an CL-S handshape to represent a head shaking no. Or, you would use the CL-index finger of both hands, crossed, to represent legs crossed.
Plural classifier is a plural symbol of a noun or subject.
Some examples are a) CL-open-hand, horizontal, palm down for "many birds flying in the sky" or b) CL-horizontal 3-handshape representing a car parked in a lot, held, while the non-dominant hand replicates and moves that handshape across the lot, would show multiple cars parked in the lot.
NOTE: These resources were last updated March 2021.
A PDF version of this guide is available - General Interpreting Skill Development: Classifier Use - ASL and General Interpreting Skill Development: Classifier Use - English
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