Stores this week are stocked full of Valentine’s Day cards to share with family and friends, but where are the cards in American Sign Language? How can we show affection to each other in a short, sweet note?
Maybe we could go look for the perfect spot with bright lighting where we can take out our expensive iPhones, and then immediately film a one-handed, shaky clip. After trimming and editing the clip we then get ready to send out an email — but wait! There was some spinach hanging off our finger. Time to start all over again —
Or we could simply print out the free Valentine’s Day cards below, write a tender message, and then put them where our family and friends can find them. There’s even a card where you can practice writing using fingerspelling — great for quick, secret notes!
As one of our New Year’s resolutions, ASLwrite is making it easier for you to learn written ASL! The following video is #5 in our 6-week course in written ASL featured here on the website, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s a great complement to the How to Write American Sign Language book!
Today we have a special message. Let’s put aside the 5 parts of ASL for a moment and discuss writing space.
In order for us to translate 3-dimensional space into a 2-dimensional format, we need to be wise with how we arrange things on paper. In written ASL, the signing space corresponds with written space. We need to make sure that it’s clear in writing.
The Two Spaces
There are two kinds of written space: Neutral and Locative. Our course so far has taken place within neutral space, from the signer’s perspective. Locative space is a perspective outside the body, as if one were watching the signer. (It’s also called the 3rd person perspective.) We will go in-depth with locative marks next.
Let’s take a look at why locative space is important. Words such as tomorrow, tend, and smart are connected to the body. If we focus on the handshapes and motions alone, the words do not have meaning.
As you see, some words need locatives to be understood. That’s why we have neutral space and locative space.
See you next time!
Your assignment is to look through the ASL Writing Dictionary at http://aslwrite.com/dictionary and find at least 5 words that use neutral and locative space. Compare the words and figure out what part of the body the locatives represent.
As one of our New Year’s resolutions, ASLwrite would like to make it easier for you to learn written ASL! The following video is #4 in our 6-week course in written ASL featured here on the website, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s a great complement to the How to Write American Sign Language book!
Today, we’re putting together words using movement marks! Watch the video and read the text to get your assignment.
In the last couple videos, we covered the following portions: Handshapes/Digits and Palm Orientation/Diacritics. Today, we’ll be focusing on ASL sign movement, and the corresponding written movement marks.
What Are Movement Marks?
When you are travelling to an unfamiliar place, the first thing you might do is check a map. Many of you reach for your smartphone and open the maps app. In there, arrows show the route you need to take.
The same thing happens in written ASL. Movement marks show the direction handshapes tend to follow when signing a word.
The Paper Space
I’ve explained before that the signing space you use is mirrored on paper. If your hand goes into one direction, the digit also follows the same path. You do not write as if you are watching someone else sign when you are writing a sign within neutral space. You write from your perspective as a signer. Movement lines follow you within that space.
Movement marks have two parts. The first part is the motion line, and the second the endpoint.
How does this work? The space on paper follows the area in front of our body. Corresponding motion lines fan out within this horizontal space.
Moving within vertical space requires a vertical mark.
Motion lines can also be different shapes, depending on the word.
A single dot at the end of a motion line serves as the “arrow” part. It points the direction the handshape(s) go. There are two variations in the endpoints: the “normal” dot, and the lined firmpoint. Firmpoints bring emphasis to how the word is signed.
Also, motions can be repeated by adding more than one endpoint. This can correspond to a noun, verb, or repetitive motion.
If we take out a motion line, leaving only the endpoint, it becomes a contact point. This shows where the handshapes touch a body part. Take for example, “cookie” and “owe.”
The body part can also be left out to show where the handshape touches an imaginary surface. “Click” is an example of this.
More Movement Marks
There are other ways to show movement marks, including with contraction and expanding marks. “Meet” and “disconnect” use those marks.
“Book” is a creative example of an expanding mark.
The Morphing Line
Motion lines have another purpose outside of mapping words. Sometimes a handshape changes in the course of the word. The morphing line facilitates this change.
Movement marks have many different functions — the above is a portion of the possibilities. For more in-depth information, check out How to Write American Sign Language.
Look in the ASL Writing Dictionary and practice writing your favorite words that have movement marks. Then, take movement marks out for a test drive with the following words:
Answer key will be posted soon. See you next time!
As one of our New Year’s resolutions, ASLwrite would like to make it easier for you to learn written ASL! The following video is #3 in our 6-week course in written ASL featured here on the website, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s a great complement to the How to Write American Sign Language book!
Today, we’re adding motion to your handshapes through diacritics! Watch the video and read the text to get your assignment.
How Do ASL Handshapes Move?
Last week we discussed the 5 parts of ASL. We talked about ASL handshapes and examined the written ASL equivalent – digits. In this installment we’ll cover the next part, palm orientation and diacritics.
When we sign, our handshapes aren’t frozen in space. They move around at the wrist joint, flutter through the fingers, and face different directions. We write this through diacritics, a special class of marks that add wrist motion, finger movement, and palm orientation to digits.
The above are the 5 diacritics: hinge, rotational, rattle, flutter, and edge diacritics. We will discuss each one in turn.
The wrist movement for this diacritic is similar to how a door moves on its hinges, hence its name. For this to be written, the wrist motion of handshapes are directly left to right and front to back.
When the handshapes swivel around on the wrist, a rotational diacritic is written. The motion is almost similar to a Lazy Susan.
The secret to knowing when to write a hinge or a rotational diacritic is to feel the bones of the forearm. If they twist across each other when you sign the word, then it calls for a rotational diacritic.
Sometimes we shake our hands like a rattle, and this diacritic comes in. Placement of the mark is also very important, as putting it near a finger means that the single finger moves.
Our fingers wiggle, or flutter when we sign “snow.” This motion is written using the flutter diacritic.
This diacritic is unique in that it shows palm orientation rather than motion. Adding a line near the digit means that the handshape set on “edge.” This line is either below or to the left/right of the digit.
Those are the five diacritics. We’ll look into adding more movement to handshapes through movement marks in the next video.
As one of our New Year’s resolutions, ASLwrite would like to make it easier for you to learn written ASL! The following video is #2 in our 6-week course in written ASL featured here on the website, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s a great complement to the How to Write American Sign Language book!
Today, we’re digging into the structure of written ASL! Feel free to watch the video or read the text.
How Do We Sign ASL?
We’re used to signing every day, but we usually don’t give much thought to how we are able to express ourselves in American Sign Language. How is it possible for us to express our words?
We do that through the unique way it is structured. ASL has five parts:
Extramanual Signals (also known as Non-manual Signals)
For each of the 5 parts of expressive ASL, written ASL has its own counterpart. We will go through each in order throughout this course.
In this installment, we are focusing on the first component of ASL. The basic building blocks of our language are handshapes, and their written counterparts are digits.
If you ask a signer what handshapes are, they will usually give you examples from the manual alphabet. That actually belongs to English. ASL has over 60 unique handshapes, which can be difficult to memorize all at once.
In order to make it easier to start learning handshapes and their corresponding digits, we’ve created a digibet. It has 30 of the most commonly used handshapes, sequenced in a memorizable order.
The sign name “5SG” for the digibet comes from the extended digibet. It is organized into 3 categories: Open, Closed, and Mixed handshapes. The first digit of each category is represented in the name sign.
Written ASL for the most part reflects our perspective as signers. The paper we write on becomes a “carbon copy” of ourselves. For this reason digits have both left-handed and right-handed versions, also helping with identifying palm orientation.
For today’s assignment, start writing out the digits and memorizing the digibet. Use creative mediums to explore the shapes and writing structure. Draw a picture that incorporates your writing — experiment with left- and right-handed digits. Create a digibet story, even!
“Adrean Clark’s How to Write American Sign Language is visually engaging and thoughtfully structured to encourage newbies to try their hand at writing ASL. This book builds upon Robert Arnold’s revolutionary approach to writing ASL and makes it accessible. This is an excellent introduction to the exciting world of writing ASL, and a fantastic way to look at the language in a different light.”