and Answering Questions
IN DAILY CONVERSATION, you ask and answer questions constantly; questions are a basic and extremely useful part of both spoken and visual languages, and are especially important when you are learning to sign. In order to communicate effectively using ASL, you’ll need to learn how to ask and answer questions, including one especially important one: “What time is it?”
The strong visual aspects of sign language require that questions be divided into two categories. The first category is the “wh-” words: who, what, when, where, why, which, and how. Questions that use these words ask for specific information. The second category is “yes-no” questions. These questions can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Both of these question types need to be supported by specific facial expressions with nonmanual behaviors. Nonmanual behaviors do not use the hands. Instead, these behaviors use the eyes, facial expressions, head movement, body posture, or body language. Signers use nonmanual behaviors to show emotion, emphasize a point, make a negative statement, and ask questions. Facial expressions are equal to vocal intonation. When you do not apply the proper facial expressions and nonmanual behaviors, your questions may not be interpreted correctly.
As a novice signer, your first step toward acquiring the important elements of facial expressions and nonmanual behaviors begins right here, with the two categories of questions. The skill of applying facial expression and nonmanual behaviors will gradually build and develop naturally as you further your studies in sign language.