Step Four: Body Location Through Locatives

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The Locations of Locatives

The concept of neutral space was explained in the last step, but what do we do when an ASL word connects with the body? Locative space makes it possible to anchor ASL words to parts of the body and still be understood.

There are two views in this category, frontal and profile. The locative marks within those views are also known as locatives.

Locative Marks

Locative Marks

Frontal View

When an ASL word contacts the body and/or travels across it, the frontal view provides the base for their movements. Frontal locative marks signify the specific parts of the body.

Frontal Locatives

Frontal Locatives

Vertical marks are not needed, since the locatives establish orientation.

Shoulder Locative With Movement Lines

Shoulder locative with directional movement lines.

Below are a few ASL words that utilize frontal locatives.

Thought, Time, Please

Examples of Frontal Locatives

Profile View

The profile view is unusual in that it is written from a third-person perspective. ASL words that fit this perspective best travel outward from the body, making it necessary to show their path from another view. The profile locative marks identify which area of the body the words are anchored to.

Profile Locatives

Profile Locatives

As with frontal locative marks, vertical marks are not needed because orientation is automatically identified.

Profile View Directional Movement Lines

Torso locative with directional movement lines.

A few example ASL words that use profile locatives are written below.

Examples of Profile Locative ASL words

Three ASL words that use profile locatives.

Profile locatives can be flipped to fit handedness.

Flipped profile locatives.

Flipped profile locatives to show handedness.

Palm Orientation in Locative Space

Locative space is part of the four components of palm orientation in written ASL. The wise usage of frontal and profile locatives establish the orientation of a handshape. It can make a big difference in which ASL word is expressed.

Palm Orientation in Locatives

Examples of locatives helping with palm orientation.

Locatives in ASL Grammar

The ability of locatives to identify the body also serve as an important component of ASL grammar. When used that way, they fall under the category of extramanual marks. This will be explored further in the next chapter.


– Read and identify the following ASL words:

ASL words using locatives

– Complete the following ASL words with the correct locatives:

Add a locative to these ASL words

– Can you think of more ASL words that use locatives?

Next Step: Extramanual Marks

Answer Key:

Answer Key

Illustrations © Adrean Clark.

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This work is published from the United States.

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