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Encyclopedia > American Sign Language alphabet

The American Sign Language Alphabet is a manual alphabet that augments the vocabulary of American Sign Language when spelling individual letters of a word is the preferred or only option, such as with proper names or the titles of works. Letters should be signed with the dominant hand and in most cases, with palm facing the viewer. Fingerspelling (somtimes known as dactylology) is the representation of the letters of a writing system, and sometimes numeral systems, using only the hands. ... American Sign Language (ASL, also Amslan obs. ...



Image File history File links Download high resolution version (640x1094, 62 KB)American Sign Language alphabet, laid out by Darren Stone, derived from the Gallaudet-TT font. ...

The ASL alphabet is based on an old Spanish manual alphabet that dates back to at least the 17th century.

It is used with minor modification in Paraguay, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. The Asian countries just listed modify the T, for the ASL T is considered obscene. Instead, they use the T of the Irish manual alphabet, which is like an ASL X, but with the thumb tucked into the index finger (that is, the index finger wraps around the tip of the thumb). In Thailand, one indicates points on the left hand for the tone and vowel marks of the Thai alphabet, and aspiration is not indicated. The Paraguay alphabet is identical to ASL, except for the addition of the letter Ñ, which is an N swiveled at the wrist so that the fingers move side to side, and the letters LL and RR, which are L and R plus movement to the side. The Thai alphabet (ตัวอักษรไทย) is used to write the Thai language (ภาษาไทย) and other minority languages in Thailand. ... See: Aspiration (phonetics) Aspiration (medicine) Aspiration (long-term hope) - see for example, Robert Goddards response to the ridicule by the New York Times, 1920: Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace. ...

It is also used in Germany, Austria, Norway, and Finland, again with a modification for the letter T. T is like G with the thumb placed atop the first knuckle of the index finger.

German Ä, Ö, Ü, and ß are signed like A, O, U, and S but with a downward motion, while SCH is a 5 hand (palm forward). In Norwegian and Finnish, the letters Ä, Å, Ö, Ø are derived by moving A and O (in the case of Å, in a small window-washing circular motion), and it is the Æ that gets the 5 hand (perhaps somewhat flexed).

Good fingerspelling form

  • The hand should either remain in place while fingerspelling, or more often, drift slightly away from the midline in the manner of text being written out in the air; although, this is a subtle movement and should not be exaggerated.
  • If fingerspelling multiple words or entire sentences, there should be a very brief pause between terms so as to signify the beginning and ending of individual words.
  • Long nails or excessive jewelry can be distracting when watching fingerspelling and for this reason people who regularly use sign language usually avoid them.
  • When fingerspelling acronyms in American Sign Language, such as with FBI, NASA, or RID, the letters are often moved in a small circle to emphasize that they should not be read together as a word.
  • Additionally, when fingerspelling the hand should not bounce between letters. An exception is the case of double letters as with the word carry in which the double R can be shown by slightly bouncing the corresponding handshape, or by dragging it, slightly, to the side. Either method is a correct way to show double letters. However, people who bounce between every letter produce fingerspelling that is very hard to watch or understand. Those who cannot overcome the habit of bouncing every letter may find it helpful to hold the wrist of the hand doing the fingerspelling with the free hand so that they are forced to keep the hand from moving up and down while fingerspelling. Usually, only a few hours or days of this is enough to break the habit of unnecessary bouncing while fingerspelling.

Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations formed from the initial letter or letters of words, such as NATO and XHTML, and are pronounced in a way that is distinct from the full pronunciation of what the letters stand for. ... American Sign Language (ASL, also Amslan obs. ... The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc (RID) is a non-profit organization founded in 1964 and incorporated in 1972 that seeks to uphold the standards, ethics, and professionalism of the interpreting career. ...

Common mistakes made by beginners

Many mistakes made by beginning fingerspellers are directly attributable to how the manual alphabet is most often shown in graphics.

Mistakes with letters

In most drawings or illustrations of the American Sign Language alphabet, some of the letters are depicted from the side to better illustrate the desired handshape even though, in practice, the hand should not be turned to the side in order to produce the letter. The letters C and O are two that are often mistakenly turned to the side by beginners who become used to seeing them from the side in illustrations. Important exceptions to the rule that the palm should always be facing the viewer are the letters G and H. These two letters should be made, not with the palm facing the viewer or the speaker, but with the palm facing sideways - the hand in an ergonomically neutral position.

Mistakes with numbers

Another mistake made by people faithfully following the pictures in most illustrations of the ASL fingerspelling alphabet is the signing of the cardinal numbers 1 - 5 with the palm facing out. The cardinal numbers one, two, three, four, and five should be signed palm in (towards the signer). This is in contrast with the cardinal numbers six through nine which should be produced with the palm turned to face the person being addressed. In linguistics, cardinal numbers is the name given to number words that are used for quantity (one, two, three), as opposed to ordinal numbers, words that are used for order (first, second, third). ...

As with the letter O, the zero should not be turned to the side, but shown palm facing forward.

This applies only to the cardinal numbers however. Using numbers in other situations, such as with for showing the digits of the time for example, has different rules. When signing the time, the numbers are always facing the person being addressed, even the numbers one through five. Other signing situations involving numbers have their own norms that must be learnt on a case by case basis.

See also



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