Home ASL What’s Fingerspelling? | Signing Savvy Articles

What’s Fingerspelling? | Signing Savvy Articles

What’s Fingerspelling? | Signing Savvy Articles


By Brenda Cartwright
Monday, July 18, 2022

This text is written by Brenda Cartwright (BC). Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a grasp instructor and a well-known writer. BC additionally contributes quite a few weblog articles for Signing Savvy. Search for them on the “Articles” tab on our web site.

The Handbook Alphabet

The alphabet indicators utilized in ASL are referred to as the handbook alphabet. The handbook alphabet consists of 26 particular person handshapes corresponding to every letter of the English alphabet.

Alphabet Letters in American Sign Language (ASL)

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Fingerspelling is a crucial a part of American Signal Language the place particular person letters of the handbook alphabet are signed to spell out English phrases.

Fingerspelling has numerous however particular makes use of inside ASL:

Correct Nouns

Correct nouns such because the names of particular person folks or organizations are fingerspelled. For Instance: 



Titles of issues like books, performs, motion pictures, and tv exhibits are fingerspelled.

You’ll be able to see how each the individual’s identify “Howie Seago” and the identify of the TV present “Star Trek” are fingerspelled on this instance sentence:

English: Howie Seago is a deaf actor and director. He’s well-known for a lot of roles together with performing on Star Trek.


Particular Phrases

There may be not an indication for each English phrase. Fingerspelling is used to point a selected English phrase for one thing when there’s not an indication.

For instance, there’s a signal for BIRD, however if you wish to particularly say PARROT, you’ll fingerspell it since there’s not an indication for it. One other instance is that you may signal STARS, however if you wish to particularly say CONSTELLATION, there’s not an indication, so you’ll fingerspell the phrase.


When Clarification is Wanted

If somebody doesn’t perceive the signal you used — fingerspell it. If you don’t perceive an indication another person used — ask them what they imply and have them fingerspell it. If an indication is used that has a broad that means and clarification is required — fingerspell the precise time period.

Training Fingerspelling

Training the alphabet straight via is helpful if you find yourself first studying the letters, however don’t simply apply the alphabet so as again and again. As soon as you’re uncovered to every letter, begin training full phrases. Fingerspelling is extra than simply individually signing every letter in a exact method; the letters inside phrases ought to move collectively. The extra you fingerspell, the extra you’ll develop a rhythm and pacing to your fingerspelling. We prefer to equate fingerspelling to penmanship — it ought to be lovely to observe.

A good way to apply is by fingerspelling pangrams since a pangram is a sentence that accommodates all 26 letters of the alphabet. 

Right here is an instance of fingerspelling a pangram:

English: The short brown fox jumped over the lazy canine.


Writing Fingerspelled Phrases

You can not talk with ASL via written textual content. ASL has no written type. It has develop into commonplace apply to check with an indication in writing by utilizing all capital letters (CHOCOLATE) and a fingerspelled phrase by all capital letters separated by hyphens (S‑N‑I‑C‑Ok‑E‑R‑S). Additionally, you will see it written this fashion within the signal descriptions all through Signing Savvy. For instance:

English: I really like Bob.

ASL Gloss: I LOVE B‑O‑B.

Lexicalized Fingerspelling

There’s a particular subset of fingerspelling known as lexicalized fingerspelling. Lexicalized fingerspelling is fingerspelling that appears like an indication. The person letters mix collectively, type a form, or have a motion like an indication, reasonably than being composed of simply the person letters. There are solely sure phrases which might be lexicalized. You’ll not know which phrases are lexicalized if you find yourself simply starting to signal. That’s okay; it’s protected to fingerspell any phrase and other people will perceive what you’re signing. As you develop into extra skilled and talk extra with fluent signers, you’ll study extra phrases which might be fingerspelled in a lexicalized style. For instance: 

In regards to the Creator

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a grasp instructor, well-known presenter, and writer of a number of finest promoting signal language and decoding textbooks from the RID Press. For 35 years Brenda was the Chair of the Signal Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Group School in Lansing, Michigan.

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