Grammar: Lexicalized Fingerspelling

Languages borrow words from other languages. This is called linguistic borrowing. Many English words are borrowed into ASL through fingerspelling.

Some words are spelled so frequently, that they become sign-like, in that they exhibit specific movements, locations or other word-like characteristics. This process is called lexicalization.

When fingerspelled loan signs become lexicalized, often specific processes can occur. Here are a few examples:

Sometimes, letters may be deleted. For example: often instead of fingerspelling the full phrase, M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N, native ASL users will sign M-I-C-H.

Sometimes, the sign will take on specific movements. For example, instead of fingerspelling the word J-O-B with each letter palm out, the signer may turn the last letter, B, inwards to form a more natural movement.

Sometimes, the phrase may be reduplicated. For example, instead of signing D-O, a person asking "what are you doing" might sign D-O-D-O-D-O etc.