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!
As one of our New Year’s resolutions, ASLwrite would like to make it easier for you to learn written ASL! We will have a 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 starting the Written ASL Basics course! Feel free to watch the video or read the text.
Why write American Sign Language?
There are two parts to this question — expressive ASL, and writing itself.
Why is it important to have expressive ASL? I’ve mentioned before that language is a depository of a culture’s history and values. In the case of ASL, we have a unique set of values that are ingrained in the language.
Let me tell you a story. Robert Sirvage, a DeafBlind researcher, was studying Deaf Space when he came across something interesting. He had set up a camera within a hall at Gallaudet, filming people who were conversing with each other as they travelled down the hall. Those who were speaking moved independently of each other. In contrast, two signers moved forward with each other. When one person stepped back, the other shifted closer. The two signers’ physical spaces became one unit so well that they moved around obstacles together.
The very nature of signing ASL is inclusion. A conversation is not only about the person who is signing but about the person listening. It is a two-way interaction, and this is one of the core values of the signing community. We have a unique way of interacting with each other, and that affects how we express ourselves within American Sign
Language word choices and structure. It is part of the values we pass on through our language.
Second, take a moment to think about writing itself. In your daily life, have you noticed how much writing is in your surroundings?
For example, when you go to your workplace there are large “EXIT” signs above certain doors. Why are the signs there and not auditory warnings that blare “EXIT, EXIT, EXIT”? I would imagine things becoming quite noisy and confusing with so many items blaring out their names. Reducing it to a specific visual area and emphasis makes it much easier to process.
The time it takes to recognize letters and understand meaning is a lot faster than the time it takes to listen to a word. This applies to both spoken English and signed ASL. When we read various things in text, like newspapers and online articles, we process the words at our own pace. We are able to digest and absorb concepts within our means.
Not only that, paper is an excellent, inexpensive and portable technology. A lot of information can fill one page of text. Digital technology, for all its possibilities, still borrows the principles of text on paper.
Now, I’ve explained the values of ASL and the benefits of writing. When we combine the two, we get written ASL.
Let me give you a little bit of my background. I’m an artist, and I’m a writer. Those two skills are combined in my comics. For a long time I struggled with showing my native language, ASL, in my work. I would see other people writing in English or Spanish, and feel frustrated that I could not do the same for my own language. Sometimes I would draw my characters frozen mid-word, but that didn’t work. It was not a true representation.
When I saw written ASL (si5s), I was thrilled to discover the intuitive ways that it captured ASL in efficient strokes. Si5s fit the parameters for writing well. After that, I picked it up and kept going.
The good news is that if you watched the video, you already are fluent in ASL.It will be much easier to start writing because of your innate understanding of the language. Once you make the mental connection between your signs and the written words, the rest will flow.
If you have any questions and concerns during this course, please do email me at email@example.com. Do feel free to comment and share your thoughts below as well!
“How to Write American Sign Language is very accessible . . . The written ASL system is an elegant and economical approach to adapting ASL to the written modality. I would love to see written ASL become part of the curriculum for Deaf students and ASL learners of all ages.”