Move Your Digits

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!

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

Today, we’re adding motion to your handshapes through diacritics! Watch the video and read the text to get your assignment.

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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.

diacritics e1358639606823 300x110 Move Your Digits

The above are the 5 diacritics: hinge, rotational, rattle, flutter, and edge diacritics. We will discuss each one in turn.

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Hinge Diacritic

hinge e1358640221747 198x300 Move Your Digits

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.

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Rotational Diacritic

rotational e1358640159882 198x300 Move Your Digits

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.

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Rattle Diacritic

rattle e1358640117355 198x300 Move Your Digits

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.

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Flutter Diacritic

flutter e1358640279841 198x300 Move Your Digits

Our fingers wiggle, or flutter when we sign “snow.” This motion is written using the flutter diacritic.

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Edge Diacritic

edge2 e1358640336287 198x300 Move Your Digitsedge1 e1358640048601 198x300 Move Your Digits

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.

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Assignments

Look around the ASL Writing Dictionary for words that use diacritics. Write out a few of your favorites.

Then, figure out how to write the following words:

must
when
gift
laundry
snow

Answers are at the end of the next post. See you next time!

NEXT: Mapping Your ASL!

The ASL Digibet

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!

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

Today, we’re digging into the structure of written ASL! Feel free to watch the video or read the text.

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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:

  • Handshapes
  • Palm Orientation
  • Movement
  • Spatial Orientation
  • 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.

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Digits

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.

handndigit The ASL Digibet

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.

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The Digibet

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.

digibet The ASL Digibet

The full 60+ handshapes are still represented in the extended digibet. (Both digibets can be downloaded here.)

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.

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Identifying Handedness

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.

handed The ASL Digibet

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Assignments

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!

NEXT: Move Your Digits!

Why Write American Sign Language?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 adrean@aslwrite.com. Do feel free to comment and share your thoughts below as well!

NEXT: The ASL Digibet

Free ASL Holiday Cards

Are you frantically searching for the right holiday card that incorporates American Sign Language? Look no further – we have two free designs that you can print out and mail today!

HHcard 300x231 Free ASL Holiday Cards

“A Holiday Wish” 2-sided card

HNYcard 300x231 Free ASL Holiday Cards

“Happy New Year 2013” card

Have a special ASL holiday card design you’d like to see? Let us know!

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Special thanks to Bethany Gehman for layout work!

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