How to Write Your Sign Language

The Adreanaline blog recently posted a new comic, in written American Sign Language and written French Sign Language. Which brings up an interesting question:

How can written ASL support other sign languages and still allow them to stand on their own?

The answer is actually easier than one might think. Let’s break down the components:

Signed ASL Written ASL
Handshapes Digits
Palm Orientation Diacritics (and more)
Movement Movement Marks
Location Locatives
Non-Manual Signals Extramanual Marks

Those components are shared with all sign languages. What sets American Sign Language apart from French Sign Language and others is the collection of handshapes/digits and how they are used when conversing. If we let go of that structure and borrow the underlying principles from each written component, we can then create a custom solution for any sign language.

lsfasl How to Write Your Sign Language

In the case of LSF, the handshapes used in French signs had corresponding digits in the ASL digibet. That is how it was possible for the l’Épée comic to make the leap from ASL to LSF, and leave the integrity of French Sign Language intact.

Remember each sign language has their own “library” of handshapes, so new digits (and possibly other marks) will need to be created to fit the language. Finding the common elements between ASL and your sign language can lead to a completely new written language, because the underlying principles are the same.

We will continue to explore this and more in future articles. Subscribe today to get them in your inbox!

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Art’Pi needs your help with producing their commemorative issue on l’Épée’s 300th birthday — If you enjoyed the comics and this article, donate today!

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