Archive of ‘Movement Marks’ category

Mapping Your ASL

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!

If you’re just joining us now, you can go back and start with Why Write American Sign Language?

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.

Hand/Digit Movement


Motion Lines

Movement marks have two parts. The first part is the motion line, and the second the endpoint.

Motion Line

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.

Horizontal Motion Lines

Moving within vertical space requires a vertical mark.

Vertical Motion Lines

Motion lines can also be different shapes, depending on the word.

Variety of Motion Lines



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.

Endpoint and Firmpoint

Also, motions can be repeated by adding more than one endpoint. This can correspond to a noun, verb, or repetitive motion.



Contact Points

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.

Morphing Line

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!

NEXT: Writing Space!

Answer Key to Move Your Digits:


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