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Now that we’ve covered the five steps to writing ASL, let’s look at how to build a written ASL word. It may seem complicated now, but as you gain more experience in writing it will become second nature.
The above diagrams show how effectively paper is used to compress the three-dimensional space of signing. Using the area wisely will help with comprehension. The next two sections will focus on how to write a word in neutral and locative space.
When you are writing ASL words, the default position should be from your viewpoint as a writer (neutral space). The photographs below are a reference for you to sign the word yourself, not the view that the word should be written in.
Let’s begin with the word “support.”
This is how we determine the space that “support” will be written in. Notice how the movement of the ASL word and the handshapes aren’t as clear in profile space?
Since we have determined the best space to write the word “support” – we now move to choosing the digit.
Does “support” need a locative? No, because the word does not make contact with the body, as shown in the image above. Adding a locative would be an inefficient use of writing time.
Most ASL words have an endpoint after the motion line. In the rare case of emphasis or speed, a firmpoint is used. This word was not given an emphasis, so it retains the endpoint.
However, as you can see here, the signer’s eyebrows are raised. That serves as either emphasis or topicalization.
Now we have our final written ASL word.
As discussed before, locative space contains a third-person view. It is a good fit for words that go outward or across the body. The word we have chosen as an example is “thank you.”
First, we pick the appropriate digit for the handshape.
Next, we choose the locative that shows the body part that the word is anchored to.
Now we have the final written ASL word for “thank you.” It’s a word that is used very often in writing!
Identify and break down the following neutral space words:
Write the following neutral space words in ASL:
Identify and break down the following locative space words:
Write the following locative space words in ASL:
Model: Amber Zion.
Photographs © Julia Dameron and Erik Call.
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.