Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: American Sign Language ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: American Sign Language
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: anniepannie-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 27 May 2006 09:40 PDT
Expires: 26 Jun 2006 09:40 PDT
Question ID: 732851
What are 'loan' signs?

Clarification of Question by anniepannie-ga on 27 May 2006 09:41 PDT
In American Sign Language, what are 'loan' signs?
Subject: Re: American Sign Language
Answered By: palitoy-ga on 27 May 2006 10:44 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello anniepannie-ga,

Thank-you for your question.

In American Sign Language a "loan sign" is either a finger-spelled
word or a sign that has been borrowed from another sign language.  The
latter explanation is the one that is most commonly used today but
both are still in common usage as can be seen in these snippets.

"'Lexicalized' fingerspelled words used to be called 'loan signs'.
Some people still call lexicalized fingerspelled words 'loan signs'
but the term 'loan sign' more accurately applies to signs that were
'borrowed' from other signed languages and became part of ASL.  [..]
In the old days many ASL instructors (including me) referred to
lexicalized fingerspelled words as 'loan signs'.   Then, later we
stopped calling such signs (#EARLY, #BANK, #WHAT, #BACK, #BURN, etc)
loan signs and started calling them lexicalized fingerspelling.  Now
we use the term 'loan signs' to describe signs like the new versions
of:  JAPAN, CHINA, SPAIN, MEXICO, etc which were 'borrowed' from the
signed languages of those countries."

"Loan signs are signs that have been borrowed from other countries. 
Quite a few loan signs consist of the signs that deaf people in other
countries use to refer to their country.  For example, the loan sign
for Japan uses the index and thumb of each hand to trace a banana
shape in the air.  This sign looks somewhat like the shape of Japan. 
The old sign did a 'J' on the temple near the eyes in reference to the
shape of a Japanese person's eyes.  The new sign shows more respect
for Japanese Deaf Culture."

"Lexical Borrowing - A process in which one language borrows a lexical
item from another language and incorporates it into its system. In
ASL, such a lexical item is generally referred to as a loan sign."

"Loan Signs are typically 3-5 letter words that are commonly
fingerspelled in ASL. You'll notice as you go through the lists below
that some of these fingerspelled words do have signs, however, many
times they are fingerspelled due to the letter's natural patterns and
ease of movement."

"LOAN SIGNS: Sometimes ASL borrows words from English and works them
into ASL vocabulary.  This is not unique to ASL & English; many (if
not all) languages share some vocabulary when they come into contact
with one another.  This process takes place in ASL by use of
lexicalized fingerspelling or what are commonly called LOAN SIGNS."

I hope this answers your question, should you require any further
assistance with this subject please do not hesitate to ask for

Research Strategy:
anniepannie-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.00

Subject: Re: American Sign Language
From: palitoy-ga on 28 May 2006 01:29 PDT
Thank-you for the 5-star rating and tip!  They are both appreciated.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy