The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

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Building Written ASL Words

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.

blueprintspace 300x243 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Click to view larger image.

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.


A Word In Neutral 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.”

supportfull 164x300 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

The ASL 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?

supportspace 300x197 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Left – Neutral Space. Right – Locative Space.

Since we have determined the best space to write the word “support” – we now move to choosing the digit.

supportdigits 300x111 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Choosing the digits for the word “support.”

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.

supportlocative1 300x101 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Choosing whether to write the word with or without a locative.

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.

supportpoint 300x100 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Deciding which point to use with the motion line.

However, as you can see here, the signer’s eyebrows are raised. That serves as either emphasis or topicalization.

supporteyebrows 300x106 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Adding emphasis to the word, “support.”

Now we have our final written ASL word.

supportfinal 300x165 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

The final written word for “support.”


A Locative Space 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.”

thankyou 194x300 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

“Thank you” in ASL.

First, we pick the appropriate digit for the handshape.

thankyoudigit 300x128 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Picking the digit.

Next, we choose the locative that shows the body part that the word is anchored to.

thankyoulocatives 300x113 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Choosing the locative.

Now we have the final written ASL word for “thank you.” It’s a word that is used very often in writing!

thankyoufinal 300x156 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

The final written ASL word for “thank you”


Practice

Identify and break down the following neutral space words:

neutralpractice The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Write the following neutral space words in ASL:

Give
One Dollar
Planning
Spread
Impact

Identify and break down the following locative space words:

locativepractice The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

Write the following locative space words in ASL:

Hello
Outs
Leave
Gut Feeling
Kiss-Fist


Next: Composition


Answer Key:

answerkeyneu1 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

answerkey1 The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

answerkeyloc The Blueprint for Written ASL Words

answerkey The Blueprint for Written ASL Words






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.

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