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American Sign Language: Possession

In American Sign Language, personal pronouns (me, she/he, you, us, them) can indicate
possession by changing the handshape from an index finger to a flat
hand (a version of a "b" palm).

The palm should face toward the person or thing that is doing the
possessing.

For example, the sign for "you" when done with a "b" palm,
fingertips up, palm toward the person, means "your."

Other examples:

mine: "b" palm on chest


his: "b" palm toward the person
hers "b" palm toward the person
theirs "b" palm makes sweeping motion indicating whom is being referred to

General possession can be indicated by signing the word "have." To do this, place the fingertips
of both "b" palms on your chest. Your hands should be
bent at the knuckles with the fingers straight.

Another way to indicate possession is the order in


which you sign something. For example, if you sign:
"my mother dog dead," the order of the signing ("dog"
immediately after "mother") would establish that the
dog belonged to your mother.

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Question:

Can I use the "S" for possession in

ASL? Like in "Sara's daughter.">>

Response: In general I do not use the possessive "S" to establish possession in ASL. For those
of you who have never seen a possessive "S" -- it is done by adding a slight inward twist to an
"S-hand." Think of someone holding onto a stick of beef jerky and then twisting their hand as

they bite off a piece to chew on. (No, the possessive "S" isn't done near the mouth, it is done in
the general signing/fingerspelling space. But the motion is similar to the twisting motion a
person uses to bite a bit of beef jerky.) The possessive "S" is used quite commonly in Contact
Signing (PSE) and or SEE, but not as often in ASL.
Just about the only time I use a possessive "S" in ASL is when I'm fingerspelling a title. For
example, suppose someone asks me what is the name of that delicious pizza place we went to the
other night, I might respond by fingerspelling "A-N-T-O-N-I-O'S," using a possessive "S" at the
end of Antonio's.
In ASL, to sign "Sara's daughter," I'd spell "S-A-R-A" and then sign "DAUGHTER." The order
of the words would indicate the relationship. If I needed to be absolutely clear, I'd sign, "S-A-RA, HER-[aiming the possessive B-palm toward Sara or the referent-area for Sara]
DAUGHTER."

have / possess

HIS, HER, and ITS can all be indicated by the same sign:

my / mine / belongs to me

our / ours

their / theirs / belonging to multiple individuals

your / yours / belongs to you