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9.1: Introduction

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    Empha…what?! Next up is emphatic loan signs, or fingerspelling loan signs that move for emphasis. Emphatic, or directional loan signs are a unique category of ASL Loan signs. Get ready, it’s a little freaky because they move! Yes, after all this time of stressing the importance of keeping your hands still and not stamping, yada, yada, yada, we’re going to move our fingerspelled words all through space! The movement is purposeful, however, it’s not random. The decision to emphatically sign a loan sign is done similar to stressing a word or drawing out sounds.

    To get us started practicing, below is an abbreviated list of emphatic loan signs with movement tips. Being mindful of your movements and practicing each emphatic sign until you develop muscle memory and fluidity will take time.

    Mindful Tip 14: Expression and appropriate directional movement is vital when signing emphatic loan signs.

    Below is a list of emphatic loan signs, categorized according to movement for ease of memorizing. There’s an alphabetized list of RS 10 Emphatic/Directional Loan Signs, at the end of this chapter, coming right after RS 9 Miscellaneous Loan Signs. Before beginning to implement emphatic signs into your fingerspelling protocol, it’s very important you see these modeled by a fluent signer so the freaky doesn’t become incorrectly freakier! When you do see emphatic/directional loan signs modeled, please be mindful, take notes and study video of the movements so that these can become a resource in your fingerspelling toolkit. Successful execution of fingerspelled emphatic/directional signs is an indication of advanced understanding.

    Moves in Downward Circle






    Moves Outward


    NG – No Good






    Exaggerated Downward “p” Movement



    One Letter Wiggles

    hahahaha – palm up, “h” wiggles

    if – “i” stays up, “f” wiggles

    Touches Head Region

    K.O. – Knock Out – from forehead down

    PF – Pissed Off – “p” “o” from nose down, palm stays in

    EEK! – from ears outward

    Repeated Letter Movement



    Moves Towards Reference



    Uncategorized Movement

    what! – letter combination twists palm in

    yes – letter sequence nods downward

    9.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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