Step Two: Wrist Motion In ASL Diacritics

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How To Capture Wrist Motion

Written ASL diacritics use special marks that suggest wrist movement and palm orientation, allowing readers to imagine the motions. There are five diacritics in written ASL: Hinge, Rotational, Rattle, Flutter, and Edge.

Image of the five written ASL diacritics

The Five Written ASL Diacritics

Opening Doors – Hinge Diacritic

The name hinge diacritic suggests an opening and closing of the joint. That is exactly what happens in the hand when it moves from side to side or from front to back. It is written with an arc below the digit.

The Hinge Diacritic

Hinge Diacritic

Side to Side Hinge Movement

Hinge Movement From Front To Back Visual of the Hinge Diacritic

The specific motion indicated by a hinge diacritic depends on the context of the ASL word.

Moving In Circles – Rotational Diacritic

The secret to knowing when to write a rotational diacritic is to feel the bones in your forearm as you sign. If the bones swivel past each other, then the diacritic is written. The circular motion is a perfect fit for the small circle mark below the digit.

The Rotational Diacritic

Rotational Diacritic

Rotational Wrist Movement

Visual of the Rotational Diacritic

Shake and Rattle – Rattle Diacritic

Sometimes ASL handshapes have a quick “shaking” motion. The rattle diacritic shows this brief motion. It is also specific in its location.

The Rattle Diacritic

Rattle Diacritic

Visual of the Rattle Diacritic

Visual of the Rattle Diacritic

The above placement of the rattle diacritic indicates the quick movement of the full handshape. Placing a rattle diacritic near an area means that that location moves. The areas can be one finger, one thumb, a set of fingers, or the entire handshape (base of main stroke).

Fluttering Fingers – Flutter Diacritic

Sometimes fingers move in a “fluttering” motion. A series of curves are written above the fingers in the flutter diacritic.

Image of the Flutter Diacritic

Flutter Diacritic

Movement of the Flutter Diacritic

Visual of the Flutter Diacritic

Standing on Edge – Edge Diacritic

Sometimes a handshape is turned onto its side so that the end of your palm faces outward. The edge diacritic helps discern your palm orientation in that particular situation. The line is written according to the surface that the digit “rests” on, whether it is upright or on its side facing outward.

Image of the Edge Diacritic

Edge Diacritic

Visual of the Edge Diacritic

Visual of the Edge Diacritic


– What ASL words are written in the two examples below? (Scroll down for the answer.)

Yes in written ASL
Finish in written ASL

– Figure out how to write the following words using digits and diacritics only:

one hour

– How many more ASL words can you think of that uses only diacritics?

Answer Key:

– Yes and Finish

Answer Key

Next Step: Movement Marks

Moving handshape images © Adrean Clark.

The ASLwrite Community has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to the text and method of written ASL contained on this website and How We Write American Sign Language. In releasing copyright, we ask that written ASL be respected as the domain of the American Sign Language-speaking community and that it be given all the rights and privileges that written English enjoys.

This work is published from the United States.

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