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.

movement e1359057406531 272x300 Mapping Your ASL


Motion Lines

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

motionline e1359057262619 300x55 Mapping Your ASL

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.

horizdiagram e1359057086953 300x147 Mapping Your ASL

Moving within vertical space requires a vertical mark.

vertdiagram e1359057467672 300x192 Mapping Your ASL

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

differentlines e1359056854707 300x214 Mapping Your ASL



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.

endpoints e1359056988722 300x153 Mapping Your ASL

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

multiendpoint Mapping Your ASL


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.”

cookieowe e1359056782191 300x165 Mapping Your ASL

The body part can also be left out to show where the handshape touches an imaginary surface. “Click” is an example of this.

click e1359056748276 252x300 Mapping Your ASL


More Movement Marks

There are other ways to show movement marks, including with contraction and expanding marks. “Meet” and “disconnect” use those marks.

meet e1359057133330 300x171 Mapping Your ASL

disconnect e1359056948403 300x172 Mapping Your ASL

“Book” is a creative example of an expanding mark.

book e1359056695933 300x223 Mapping Your ASL


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 e1359057200876 300x126 Mapping Your ASL

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:

answerkeydiacritics Mapping Your ASL

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